When Chad Dickson discovered his two and a half year old daughter, Cora Nicole, needed a kidney transplant, his thoughts jumped back to a year earlier when he chose to donate a portion of his liver to save his son, Felix.
Felix was born with biliary atresia, a birth condition that obstructs the flow of bile in the system and can be corrected with a liver transplant. Chad discovered he was a match and without hesitation donated a piece of his liver to his son.
It was only one year later – in February 2015 -- that he received similar news about his daughter. Cora Nicole needed a kidney transplant because she had kidney dysplasia.
Again, Chad discovered he was a match. He immediately made the decision to donate one of his kidneys to his daughter.
This month, Chad and about 340 other organ donors were honoured at the first Living Donors Celebration event organized by the University Health Network, St. Michael's Hospital and SickKids Hospital.
The event featured heartfelt speeches from three organ donors who have each donated a kidney or a piece of their liver in the past two years.
The three hospitals who organized the event are the first in Ontario to honour their living donors with a unique pin for each donor. Featuring the green Gift of Life ribbon and a butterfly to symbolize transformation, the pins were originally designed by the wife of a kidney transplant patient at Toronto General Hospital.
Organ donors needed
Currently, there are 1,500 people in Ontario waiting for an organ transplant. Every three days, someone on that list dies waiting for a transplant. Only 26 per cent of Ontarians are registered donors. The living donor option addresses the gap between the need for organ donors and the actual donor rate.
"Today's medical results mean that 80 to 90 per cent of all recipients live five years post-transplant, with many making it to 30 or even 40 years post-transplant," says Dr. Atul Humar, Medical Director of the Multi-Organ Transplant Program at UHN.
UHN's living donor programs are renowned around the world: the living donor kidney program is the largest in Canada, and the living donor liver program is the largest in North America. Both programs have excellent surgical outcomes and long-term results that generally exceed international benchmarks.
Surgeons and medical teams visit from institutions around the world to learn what has led to our programs' internationally renowned success.
The power of donation
Susan Pattison, one of the event speakers, has been a registered nurse for 30 years and recently donated one of her kidneys to a close friend.
"I'm a great supporter of organ donation. I see the benefits through my work and now I see them personally through my friend," she explains.
Chad has also seen his children do well after their transplants and the family has a closer bond because of it, says Sharlene Dickson, Chad's wife.
"It took courage for him to do this," she says.
"But it gives us courage to see the strength in our kids."