After becoming a living liver donor for her son, Stephanie Dyriw worked with UHN's Ajmera Transplant Centre to create the campaign Great Actions Leave a Mark to raise awareness for living organ donation. (Video: YE Agency)

Stephanie Dyriw's three-year-old son, JP, was active, healthy and happy. One day all of that changed.

He began not acting like himself, quickly deteriorating and when Stephanie noticed a slight yellow in his eyes, she decided to take him to The Hospital for Sick Children (SickKids).

Her son received many tests and care, however his condition rapidly declined. He was admitted on a Wednesday, and on Sunday, he was listed for a liver transplant. The SickKids team let Stephanie know that they were in a race against the clock to save her son, and find him a liver donor. A deceased donor could not come in time to save his life.

Time was not on their side. Stephanie, not knowing much about living liver donation, pleaded with the doctors to do whatever they could for JP, and check if she could be her son's liver donor.

Across the street from the pediatric hospital, the Living Donor Liver Transplant (LDLT) Program team at UHN's Ajmera Transplant Centre – who assesses potential living donors – worked diligently and fast, doing paperwork late into the evening on Sunday to prepare Stephanie.

Her donor evaluation was done in record timing. A process that usually takes weeks, was completed in a day. On Monday, Stephanie found out she was a viable match for her son.

Stephanie says she is "super grateful to the incredible staff at UHN, at the Ajmera Transplant Centre, Dr. Mark Cattral, admin staff, nurses, the teams at SickKids and everyone who made it possible.

"Staff were so caring," she says. "It was urgent, so I didn't have time to fully understand the magnitude of the process, but I do distinctly remember the human moments throughout my entire testing and moments leading up to, into and post surgery.

"I remember a moment where I was running between UHN and SickKids and a porter stopped to tell me that he would pray for me and JP," she recalls about the interaction with a member from UHN's Transportation Services.

Those beautiful moments are the ones that she says she will always remember – the remarkable dedication to saving her son's life, and how the teams at UHN and SickKids rallied together to allow Stephanie to become a living liver donor to her son, saving his life.

"Behind every scar is a beautiful story that represents a powerful human-to-human connection," says Stephanie Dyriw about the Great Actions Leave a Mark campaign. (Photo: YE Agency)

Stephanie and JP's surgery went very well. JP is starting junior kindergarten and is back to being the vibrant, active young boy he once was.

"It's incredible to see him return to full health," she says.

"Our team put a lot of effort to make this happen and make sure the mother could safely donate to her child," says Dr. Nazia Selzner, Medical Director of the LDLT Program.

"Living organ donation offers a safer and healthier pathway to life-saving transplants, and we're very happy to see such a positive outcome."

Since going through this process, Stephanie was inspired to give back. With her creative marketing company, YE Agency, Stephanie collaborated with the Ajmera Transplant Centre to co-create the Great Actions Leave a Mark Campaign.

Stephanie Dyriw and her son, JP, display their scars from their living organ donation in a photo from the campaign. "It's incredible to see him return to full health," Stephanie says. (Photo: YE Agency)

The campaign showcases stories and scars (the mark) from 40 living organ donors and transplant recipients across Canada.

It is being unveiled this week, during Living Donation Week, an annual awareness celebration featuring free events and activities focused on raising awareness, improving access and equity in living organ donation, profiling the work of Team Transplant, and celebrating our incredible living donors and transplant recipients.

Living Donation Week was launched by the Centre for Living Organ Donation in 2020 and is celebrated annually across Canada, starting the Sunday after Labour Day. #LDW2022 will run from Sept. 11 to 17. For more information, visit www.livingdonationweek.ca

The first of its kind in Canada, the campaign's goal is to highlight the beautiful gift of life that is given when a kidney or liver donor decide to donate their organ to save the life of another in the hopes to encourage more Canadians to get involved and help raise awareness to the issue.

"Behind every scar is a beautiful story that represents a powerful human to human connection," Stephanie says about the campaign. "I am beyond grateful to be a part of this campaign that celebrates the incredible journey of each living donor and organ recipient."

To learn more about Stephanie's journey, and those of living organ donors and their recipients, visit www.greatactions.ca. Great Actions Leave a Mark is done in collaboration with YE Agency, BC Transplant and Canadian Blood Services.


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