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Trevor Hanagan's purple kidney pin draws a lot of attention from strangers as he makes his rounds as a UHN security officer.
When anyone asks him about it, he proudly tells them that he donated one of his kidneys to a stranger.
"You did what?" is the usual response.
Hanagan, 39, smiles as talks about his "act of kindness", which the clinical team ensured went to a patient who was most in need.
Inspired by friend
He first got the idea when a casual friend was in need of a kidney, after being on dialysis for many years.
Hanagan observed first-hand how restricted his friend's life was - he had to limit some of his favourite foods such as bananas, tomatoes and French fries and could not travel to places which could not accommodate his dialysis treatments.
Hanagan decided to help his friend by getting an evaluation from the living kidney donor program at Toronto General Hospital (TGH).
Meanwhile, his friend received a kidney from a family member. So Hanagan decided he could still help someone, even if that someone was a stranger.
At any point in time, there are more than 1,000 patients waiting for a kidney transplant in Ontario, and in the GTA, adults usually wait 6–10 years, depending on the blood groups, for a kidney to become available.
Living donation is an option to address the gap between the need for organs and those waiting for an organ.
In 2012, it accounted for 255 transplants in Ontario out of 1,053 organ transplants, and represents a significant portion of the increase in organ donation over the past 10 years.
TGH performs about 80 living donor kidney transplants and about 80 deceased donor kidney transplants per year.
'Going away kidney' party
It took about a year for Hanagan to be assessed, and he praises UHN Security Supervisor Carl Valentine for his encouragement and helpfulness throughout the process and the TWH Emergency staff for throwing him a lively "Going Away Kidney" party.
Finally, in March 2013, he was ready for his surgery. He remembers the day well, saying only that he was "slightly anxious", with his mom holding his left hand, and his dad holding his right hand.
He recalls that there was pain after the procedure for about a week, and walking and standing up was challenging, as was joking with his friends.
"I would end up on my knees on my daily walking rounds," he said, "because it hurt so much to laugh. And I love to laugh!"
By day 30, Hanagan was back at work with modified duties, wearing his distinct kidney pin.
"It's the best thing I ever did. I wake up every morning thinking of the recipient and feeling that he or she is alive and well. That's a good feeling," he said. "I wanted to do it because I know that it has made a difference to someone who can now have a wonderful life."