Organ donor recipients 'walking proof' there's hope
About 35 supporters took part in a five-kilometre walk Saturday to show their solidarity with those on the waiting list for an organ transplant.
Walks took place in five countries around the world, with the Canadian events organized by the Canadian Transplant Association.
At any given time there are about 150 people in Saskatchewan waiting for an organ. Approximately 40 per cent of people waiting for a transplant will die while on the waiting list, says the Canadian Transplant Association.
"There's never enough donors for the amount of people waiting. I think it's something we have to promote all the time," said Raylene Matlock, manager of the Saskatchewan Transplant Program.
Filling out a donor card and putting the donor sticker on your health card is a good first step, says Matlock, but for those wishing to donate organs or tissue when they die, it's essential to discuss it with friends and family.
"If you're in an accident, your health card could be long gone. It's a hard decision to make while somebody's laying in ICU. That's not the time to go, 'Oh, I wonder if that's what they wanted.' It's so important to talk to friends and family."
It's a small conversation that can make a huge difference in people's lives, said Matlock.
Most of the people taking part in the walk Saturday were either recipients themselves or were waiting for a transplant.
They are "walking proof" that there is life after a transplant and there is hope for those still waiting, said Canadian Transplant Association spokesperson Orest Saskiw, himself the recipient of a donor heart.
The depth of gratitude felt by recipients makes sense when one considers the alternative.
Receiving a heart and double-lung transplant 18 years ago meant Sherry Duncan Paterson got to watch her two daughters grow up.
When she was diagnosed with primary pulmonary hypertension she had a four-year-old daughter and a baby girl of just three months. Paterson was afraid of what might happen to her girls.
"It was devastating at the time."
She considers herself one of the lucky ones -- she was only on the waiting list for five months before a donor was found and she was airlifted to London, Ont., for the surgery.
The wait was shorter than some, but during that time she could hardly walk, and her lungs would struggle for breath at the exertion.
Paterson is one of the longest living survivors of a heart and lung transplant. Every day feels like a gift now, she says.
"I'm just so grateful to have the opportunity at a second chance. The best part is that my two daughters are grown up and I got to be their mom."