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On Valentine's Day, the legendary Stanley Cup toured the UHN Transplant Program.
The iconic trophy is one of the toughest prizes to win in sports, requiring personal sacrifice and courage, similar to what organ donors, their families and recipients, and UHN Transplant staff have in abundance.
"We're a hockey family, so for us, the Stanley Cup is the ultimate trophy in sports," says Ken Hamilton, 35, a volunteer coach for two teams and recreational player, who in November donated a portion of his liver to his dad, Robert, 64, who still laces up the blades in an organized league. "It's a thrill to see it."
Three generations of hockey-playing Hamiltons – Robert, Ken, and Ken's sons, Aiden, 11, Parker, 9, – travelled from the town of East Gwillimbury in York Region to Toronto General Hospital (TG) to see the Cup and pay tribute to North America's largest and most successful transplant program.
"We've been a team forever, through thick and thin," Robert Hamilton says of son Ken, who insisted on being a living donor after his dad's two sisters were not a match. "I've always been proud of him.
"It's hard to put into words. I tell him now that I owe him my life. I always will."
'A second chance at life'
In Ontario, at any point in time, there are 1,500 patients waiting for an organ transplant, and someone dies every three days while waiting.
Both the liver and kidney living donor programs are part of an innovative, comprehensive Centre for Living Organ Donation at TG – a landmark in transplant medicine.
Living donor transplantation saves and transforms the lives of people with end-stage kidney and liver disease, and helps to address the urgent need for organs.
The Liver Transplant Program at TG is one of the largest in North America, performing almost 200 liver transplants a year, with about 20 per cent of them being living donor liver transplants.
The Kidney Transplant Program at TG is the largest in Canada, performing more than 200 transplants each year, including about 30 per cent of them as living donor kidney transplants.
"Living organ donors stand out as true heroes in our communities," says Dr. Atul Humar, Medical Director of the UHN Transplant Program. "These courageous individuals offer an extraordinary gift and undertake personal sacrifice to restore the health of people suffering with kidney or liver failure."
The Stanley Cup was on hand for a few hours today. Donors, recipients, members of TeamUHN and other hockey fans flocked to pose for pictures with the trophy, which was on display on the 12th floor outpatient clinic room, the 7th floor beside the inpatient unit and also taken to some inpatients.
Having the trophy come to UHN Transplant on Valentine's Day was a generous gesture on the part of the National Hockey League and Megan Porter, Honorary Co-Chair of the Live On Campaign, who thought of the idea as a tribute to the program's patients and staff.
Brian Porter, Chair of UHN's Board of Trustees, is the other Honorary Co-chair of the Live On Campaign, which seeks to raise $100 million in support of UHN's Transplant Program.
Read more about Live On.
We are grateful to these exceptional volunteers for their tireless work on behalf of UHN Transplant.
Dr. Humar, who was joined by Brian and Dr. Kevin Smith, UHN President & CEO, and some NHL representatives, paid tribute to the program.
"On this Valentine's Day, living donors and all the deceased donors and their families deserve our love and respect," Dr. Humar said. "We are thrilled that UHN Transplant can host the Stanley Cup as a tribute to all donors and to our recipients, who now have a second chance at life."
Ken Hamilton says it came as "a tremendous relief" to learn he could be his dad's liver donor.
'No-brainer' living donor says of giving gift to her husband
"When I think of everything my dad – my parents – have done for me over the years, giving up two months (recovery period) is just a very small thing I can do to give back," he says.
That sentiment is echoed by Angel Scott, 48, who in December 2013 donated a piece of her liver to husband, Darryl, 46, who had developed cirrhosis a decade earlier due to an autoimmune disorder.
"It was a no-brainer for me because I couldn't imagine a life without him," says Angel, who regularly does public speaking on organ donation, from high schools to motorcycle shows. "I'm so grateful."
Darryl, who quips that since the transplant it means Angel "wins absolutely every disagreement we have," admits he tried to talk her out of donating, in part out of concern for their two children, then in their early 20s, and "because I knew she was giving up perfect health for me."
But five years on, Darryl, who says he remains "truly humbled by the incredible work everyone did to keep me alive," is thankful for all that his new life has given him, especially time with family and friends.
"Her big sacrifice has let me experience the little things in life I would have taken for granted," he says.