Transplant patient wants next mayor to join fightBy IRENE THOMAIDIS, TORONTO SUN
Liver transplant recipient Bruce Cuthbert thinks that more Torontonians would sign up to be an organ donor if they only knew how and he’s hoping the city’s next mayor will help raise awareness for the cause.
He was pleased to hear the three leading mayoral candidates support organ donations and joined together to receive the “Torch of Light.”
The torch is the brainchild of George Marcello, a fellow organ recipient and CEO of Step by Step — a charitable group set up to address the problem.
“The torch was lit up in Toronto 10 years ago, and since then students have relayed it around the world, raising awareness,” Marcello said, adding that Toronto has the lowest organ donation rate in the province.
George Smitherman, Rob Ford and Joe Pantalone were on hand to receive the torch before a mayoral debate at Oakwood Collegiate Institute.
The torch was blessed by Pope John Paul II in 2001, and has been around the globe — including Spain, where the donor rate is the highest in the world, he said. It was also recently in Pennsylvania, which boasts one of the highest rates in North America.
“Don’t tell me the people of Philadelphia are more compassionate than the people of Toronto,” Cuthbert, 51, said. “Yet people in Philadelphia donate three times the amount of organs per capita than people in the City of Toronto.”
Cuthbert was diagnosed 2 1/2 years ago with a failing liver and was added to the donor list.
“It was an emotionally agonizing wait,” said Cuthbert, who finally received the donation last month.
In June, his teenaged daughters walked from their Aurora home to Queen’s Park in an effort to find a donor, after they were found not to be compatible.
The media coverage, including that in the Toronto Sun, was a huge success and six living donors came forward,’ Cuthbert said.
“There were so many people who didn’t even know living donations were an option,” he added.
A living liver donor must have a matching blood type and the organ must have similar physical dimensions to the recipient’s. A donor can give up to 70% of a liver in the procedure, and the remaining organ will regenerate fully within months.
A compatible cadaver liver came up before Cuthbert could find a living donor match and that is what was used in the Sept. 11 operation.
His recovery is going well, though he must spend most time indoors as his immune system has been weakened by the anti-rejection drugs.
“I’m just so grateful. I was told I had days or weeks to live,” Cuthbert said.
He thinks Toronto’s next mayor should include information on how to become a donor with mailings, like property tax assessments, and help spread the word.
“I bet most people don’t realize Toronto’s organ donation rate is the lowest in Ontario and the mayor is in a position to raise awareness — and that’s exactly what he should do,” Cuthbert said.