Tag Archives: Culture and organ donation

The Logan Boulet effect: Death of player in Humboldt Broncos bus crash spurs a national movement

Out of the tragedy of the Humboldt Broncos bus crash and in particular, the death of Logan Boulet, a renewed awareness of organ donation gained prominence.

When Logan’s parents learned that their son’s injuries would lead to his death, his mother asked, “What about donating his organs? Is that a possibility?” This was immediately followed by his father saying, “Logan had directed me that he wanted to give his organs.”

Six people across Canada benefited from his organs and the Logan Boulet Effect soon followed. Nearly 100,000 Canadians signed up to become organ donors after learning he had signed his own card.

Bernadine and Toby Boulet, parents of the late Humboldt Broncos hockey player Logan Boulet, pose at their home in Lethbridge, Alta., on Dec.6, 2018.

(Retrieved through The Globe and Mail)

The Logan Boulet effect: Death of player in Humboldt Broncos bus crash spurs a national movement

Please click here to read the rest of the article and then go to this site to see about registering as an organ donor in your province.
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I was a stranger and you gave me water… and a kidney!

Andy Clutton donated a kidney to Ghulam Akbar Momand after they became friends and neighbours living in a Rebecca Street highrise. – Barry Gray,The Hamilton Spectator

The following article was first published in The Hamilton Spectator and also published in The Star.

He was a stranger next door. Then he gave him a kidney

Their story began with a knock at the door and a gift of bottled water.

It has become about so much more — a 65-year-old Afghan man and a 29-year-old Canadian man sharing meals, religion, culture, respect and now, almost unbelievably, a kidney.

On an August day in 2012, Ghulam Akbar Momand and 18 of his family members moved into a Rebecca Street highrise, only to find their three units without water or electricity due to a building emergency.

It was not an ideal welcome to Canada for the Afghan family, who recently arrived in Hamilton via Pakistan.

That same day, neighbour Andy Clutton made his way through the 16-storey building along with a group of other residents, distributing water bottles to help those who couldn’t make it out of their units.

Going door-to-door, Clutton met Momand — who he calls “Dr. Akbar” — along with the rest of his family living in the building, which included nine children.

It was the start of a beautiful friendship between the two men born more than three decades apart in different countries with different skin colours.

“From that day, we make our friendship,” Momand said about Clutton. “A friend who gives … half of life to you — I find this friend.”

The story of how the two men went from “friends to donors” grew out of their shared medical experience, explains Clutton, who is recovering well after donating one of his kidneys to Momand three weeks ago.

Momand, who was chief and served as doctor in his village of Mangwal, Afghanistan, would routinely perform procedures like circumcisions and pull teeth.

Clutton, a father of three, works as a palliative-care nurse in Grimsby.

“Even though (Momand’s) English was very poor then, there were many terms in Latin through medical terminology that we could tell stories about, laugh about and learn from each other on,” Clutton said.

Clutton’s shift work also meant the two could have tea often. Through these meetings, Clutton learned of Momand’s medical conditions, including slowly deteriorating kidneys that led to him being on dialysis for more than three years.

In 2015, the father of 10 had a heart operation. The stress of the surgery caused his kidney function to rapidly decrease.

As Momand’s health continued to decline, the family looked into whether one of his children could be a living kidney donor, but none were eligible because both Momand and his wife have diabetes, said Clutton.

So, the family approached Clutton and another friend in the building, Varun Rana, for help explaining their situation to other Canadians.

Not knowing what being a kidney donor involved, Rana and Clutton began exploring basic questions, such as eligibility and the length of the process.

“Initially, just to find out the facts, but kind of setting our hearts to walking through this door until the door was closed,” Clutton said.

Several years ago, Clutton, his wife Shannon and a group of their friends — including Rana and his wife Amelia — moved into the Beasley neighbourhood purposefully to serve immigrants and refugees.

“Varun and I were part of a team that would try to use our spare time to help the neighbourhood,” he said.

They are part of a small movement called MoveIn, in which Christians move into low-income, high-density communities with large newcomer populations to follow Jesus’ example.

“We’ve always explained ourselves in this neighbourhood as trying to imitate the life of Jesus in service to others,” said Clutton, who grew up in the Philippines and went to high school in Toronto.

Click here to read more…

Andy Clutton, right, says he donated a kidney to Ghulam Akbar Momand due to a “spiritual conviction” to live life like Jesus. – Photo courtesy of Andy Clutton

How Artificial Intelligence (AI) Changed Organ Donation

I received a kidney from a living donor in 2016. That this happened was a result of developments described in this article, a program run by Canadian Blood Services that would take all the available but incompatible donor-recipient pairs across Canada and seek to match them up. After going through that exercise multiple times with no success, the difference came about because an altruistic anonymous donor came forward. This resulted in a chain of paired donations and new lives for many people.

The following article, although specifically addressing the US context, describes these circumstances in great detail. The opening lines really grab you:

How AI changed organ donation in the US

By Corinne Purtill

There used to be only three ways off of a kidney transplant waiting list. The first was to find a healthy person from within one’s own pool of friends and family, who perfectly matched both the recipient’s blood and tissue types, and possessed a spare kidney he or she was willing to part with.

The second was to wait for the unexpected death of a stranger who was a suitable physical match and happened to have the organ-donor box checked on their driver’s license.

The third was to die.

Although algorithms have made a tremendous difference in matching up eligible donors and recipients, the medical ethics around organ donation cannot be resolved by a mathematical model. I’m sure you will find the included discussion of a “God committee” fascinating.

Click here to read the article.

And in a related note, I’ll be participating in the Kidney Walk this weekend. If you are interested in supporting those living with kidney disease by making a donation, click here to go to my sponsorship page.

Announcing the 2017 Kidney Walk

Hello friends,

Thanks for all your support for me in the years leading up to, and now one year beyond, the kidney transplant I received on July 29, 2016. Once again, I am participating in the London, Ontario Kidney Walk, raising funds for the Kidney Foundation of Canada. The Walk will take place on September 24. Between now and then I would appreciate any donations you are willing to make for this cause.

Did you know that the largest proportion of those in need of a transplant are those waiting for a kidney? Sad to say, those numbers are increasing. Among other things, the money you donate will help to fund research into finding more effective ways to respond to kidney disease and to support those with kidney disease.

Please follow this link to my Kidney Walk page and click on the green rectangle with “Donate Now” written on it to make a donation as you see fit.

Also, if you have been considering signing up as an organ donor, but haven’t done so yet, please click on this link as well to register as a donor. As the slogan goes, “Don’t take your organs to heaven, heaven knows we need them here!”

Thank you,

Russ Sawatsky

After Daughter’s Death, Dad Bikes 2,000 Miles To Hear Her Heartbeat One Last Time

You may have seen this in the media recently. It’s a very moving story about a father who had lost his daughter, Abbey Connor, to drowning, travelling by bicycle to raise awareness about organ donation. He arrived at his ultimate destination, the home of one of the recipients of his daughter’s donated organs, specifically, Loumonth Jack Jr., who received his daughter’s heart.

Although the emphasis is rightly on the power of organ donation to change lives, in this time of ongoing racial tensions it probably should not be lost on those who view the video that the donor was a young white woman and the recipient was a young black man. Does it not make the embraces between father Bill Connor and Loumonth and his various family members all that much more powerful?

Here is the story, written by McKinley Corbley and published on the Good News Network:

After Daughter’s Death, Dad Bikes 2,000 Miles To Hear Her Heartbeat One Last Time

This dad couldn’t contain his emotions when he heard his daughter’s heartbeat for the first time in six months.

That’s because 21-year-old Loumonth Jack Jr. was first diagnosed with a rare heart defect in January, and he was only given ten days to live unless he underwent a heart transplant.

In the very same week, Abbey Connor was found unconscious at the bottom of a hotel pool while on vacation in Cancun, Mexico. Connor was then taken into a Fort Lauderdale hospital where doctors discovered that she had irreparable brain damage.

Connor’s organs were harvested and Jack Jr. became the lucky recipient of her heart.

Continue reading here.

 

Wife of La Ronge man killed in robbery brought to tears by organ donation letter

Those in need of an organ transplant recognize that their well-being is often, almost always, the consequence of a tragedy. This article from CTV News Saskatoon illustrates that situation.

Wife of La Ronge man killed in robbery brought to tears by organ donation letter

The wife of a man who was killed during an armed robbery in La Ronge said she’s “just amazed” with how his donated organs are helping others.

Simon Grant’s organs were donated after his death in April. His wife, Cora Laich, received a letter from The Saskatchewan Transplant Program earlier this month that says how his donation is benefiting others.

Laich said the letter brought tears to her eyes.

“It was almost unbelievable to think … Simon’s organs were in other people’s bodies and that they were living on in their bodies,” Laich told CTV Saskatoon.

The letter said Grant’s lungs, liver and kidneys had all been transplanted successfully. The person who received his lungs is doing well and “in awe of the gift,” according to the letter.

His liver was transplanted successfully and two different people are off dialysis and doing well, thanks to his kidneys being donated.

Click here to continue reading.

A Message from a Living Kidney Donor

A few months ago in the post, A Somewhat Oddly Timed Thanksgiving, I mentioned Gerald Neufeld, who donated a kidney on my behalf as part of the Paired Kidney Donation (a.k.a. Living Donor Paired Exchange) program. I had mentioned in that post that Gerald had been a missionary in Japan. These days Gerald continues to be involved in church ministries in two part-time roles, one as pastor of a small Japanese congregation in Surrey, BC, and the other as the music coordinator for Emmanuel Mennonite Church in Abbotsford, BC. On February 12, he shared the following message at Emmanuel:

Faith, Christian Community, and Kidney Donation

Galatians 6:1-10

I’d like to tell you a bit about my experience in donating a kidney a number of months ago. Most of this message will be about my experience. Many people think that it must have been a huge decision for me, but I really felt like it was just a number of small steps of faith. God has blessed me with great health, a supportive family, and a wonderful church community. In deciding to take steps to donate a kidney I felt like I was just responding to God for all the blessings I’ve received…

If you read the article I wrote in the Emmanuel newsletter you would have seen how I decided to donate. Rather than it being one huge step of faith, it really felt like a lot of little things, pieces of a puzzle that came together. As I reflect on this, I realize how much community has been woven through the whole process.

In Paul’s letter to the churches of Galatia he tells them to “Bear one another’s burdens…” Here, he’s likely talking about helping people who are of bearing the burden that results from sin and the consequences of sin, but the burdens that we can help each other with could be anything that takes away from the joy in living our faith – sickness, difficulty finding work, struggles in relationships, uncertainty about the future… I’m not going to get into a lot more detail here but I thought this passage fits well with the role of the faith community in everyday life. A big part of bearing one another’s burdens involves prayer, and as I look back on my experience it’s interesting how the prayers and support of our faith community played such a major role.

At a Vancouver pastor’s meeting, when I first heard a prayer request for a man who was dying because his kidneys were failing, I began to not only pray for him, but I also thought, “Would it work for me to actually donate a kidney?” I began praying to see if God may be leading me this way. Didn’t John the Baptist say “Whoever has two coats must share with anyone who has none”? I figured I have two healthy kidneys, I guess maybe I could share with someone who has none (at least none that are functioning well)! I remember my wife Rie’s initial reaction. “I hope it doesn’t work out for you to do it!” She was quite worried! But then, she also began to pray about it and soon she was strongly supporting me, I think because she sensed that maybe God was leading me in this direction. I did lots of research, and found out that most people who donate a kidney have no problems afterward and can live a normal life. You don’t need any special medication or anything, and the only restriction I have now is that they advise against skydiving. (I’ve never figured out why)…

I read in the Canadian Mennonite magazine about another pastor who donated a kidney, and had no problems, so I decided to take another step and begin the donation process. I had to go through many tests in order to make sure I was healthy enough to donate. If any tests showed a danger of health problems in the future, I would not have been allowed to continue the process. It was at this point that I heard the one to whom I’d possibly donate a kidney, was from the same family that had given me a guitar several months earlier! When my 12-string guitar had been stolen I had put out a prayer request during one of the pastor’s meetings, hoping someone may know about a good deal on buying another guitar, and one pastor suggested he could check with a church member who has a 12-string guitar that was hardly ever used. Right away, I heard that I could have it. Now, this was the same family praying for a kidney! I had already pretty much decided to start the process to donate, but this helped confirm my decision. If they gave me a guitar, I guess I could give them a kidney! Since I wasn’t compatible with the person who needed the kidney, I joined a special program where other incompatible donors and recipients are matched. So, between 2, 3, or 4 incompatible pairs people could be matched so that each person can indirectly donate or receive. It usually takes several months, but before we were matched, the other person actually received a kidney from a deceased donor. I then wondered if God was saying, OK, you don’t have to donate anymore. But by that time, I had heard about a different friend who needed a kidney, so I decided to stay on the list in order to donate for him. Why not? I was all ready to donate! Russ Sawatsky is a friend I’d met in Japan. We’d both been mission workers there, and had met several times. Now, Russ is living with his family in Ontario… After much waiting, we were finally matched and we each had surgery.

To have surgery, I wasn’t too scared because I felt that God had led me to this decision. Of course there was a potential that there may be some complication, but I felt that even if I ended up with some major problem, God would continue to lead me through. I sensed your prayers as well as the prayers of many others in my wider community of family and friends.

Through this whole process, I didn’t let myself think too much about possible things that could go wrong (‘cause I didn’t want to chicken out!) (even though the chances of anything terrible happening were quite slim). I expected everything to go smoothly, but there were a few unexpected things that happened, reminding me that this was a complex process. I guess one thing is that the whole process took longer than I expected. When I first called the number of the “Pre-Assessment Transplant Clinic,” I gave them my email address, and they then sent me all the information I needed to get started in the process. I was thinking in my head that once I called that number, I was committing myself to donate, and would probably have surgery within a few weeks. It could have happened in a couple of months, but in the end, it was over a year later that everything finally worked out. During the process there were many opportunities for me to decide to opt out if I wanted. The staff were very careful to make sure I didn’t feel obligated to continue if I suddenly felt uncomfortable about the whole thing.

After the surgery, I was a bit surprised that it was somewhat more challenging than I had expected. There was no time when I felt all that much pain. At home, though, I took the maximum recommended dosage of painkillers because I wanted to be able to sleep, but it had the opposite effect. My mind went into a panic and I was not able to sleep for over 30 hours! It was a strange feeling, and at times I thought I might die. I prayed quite a bit during that time, committing to God, but physically my mind could not stop racing. After that I didn’t take any more painkillers and I actually don’t think I needed them. I’m glad that the weird effects only lasted about a day, and I’m thankful for all your prayers during my recovery. It was quite meaningful for me to know that I am a part of a larger faith community. It wasn’t just my own prayers that gave me strength, as I’ve mentioned before. You have been participating as well.

In the scripture passage read today, Paul not only encourages the people to bear one another’s burdens, he also says that everyone must carry their own loads. This might seem to be contradictory, but the meaning is different. We are to support and encourage each other along the way, but everyone must also take responsibility for their own actions. Someday, we’ll each have to give an account of how well we lived with what God has given us. The good news is that we are already children of God, part of God’s Kingdom through the sacrifice of Jesus Christ for us on the cross.

Today’s passage from Galatians ends with the encouragement to do what is right, not giving up, and whenever we have the opportunity, to “work for the good of all, especially those of the family of faith.” We all have chances to take a step of faith in some area. It doesn’t have to be organ donation. Maybe God is calling you to commit to give a greater percentage of your money to help others. Or maybe you are being called to give of your time, or something else in a different area. It may be a bit scary, but if you take just a small step of faith, you will see what God can do! And the one step may lead to another and another! I actually did a lot of calculating before deciding to donate a kidney, but I’m trying to trust more and more in God’s leading so that I can take more steps in the direction I feel God leading, even if I haven’t calculated and weighed all the possibilities. Sometimes I end up waiting too long before taking a step of faith, but with the support and encouragement of believers around me I’m learning to trust our Lord, more and more. Our steps of faith may be wobbly like a baby learning to walk. We’ll sometimes fall, but like a loving parent, I believe God is pleased to see us keep trying.

The great thing is that we are not alone in taking our steps. We are part of a faith community. How do we bear one another’s burdens? Here in Canada, we value independence. We teach kids to stand on their own, and take their own responsibility. We make sure we are doing the right thing, and it doesn’t matter so much how others are doing. But, when I lived in Japan I saw a different culture where the emphasis was much more on the community. The needs of the group take priority over individual needs. In Japan people are taught to think about the needs of others before their own. I sometimes notice this cultural difference between my wife and me. She’s criticised my driving because I’ve often failed to let others into my lane. My driving style is to mainly make sure I am following the rules, and others can do what they want, but in Japan people are taught to consider others, even when driving. I think we can learn something from them in this area.

It’s so easy to go through life with blinders on (like a horse). Sometimes horses have blinders on each side of their head so they don’t get distracted and can focus straight ahead. Instead, I’m trying to take more notice of what’s happening around me. It’s not good to just focus on my own situation all the time. Is there some area where you’ve noticed a need? Maybe it’s time to step into the situation in order to offer help in bearing another’s burden, so to speak.

All through the process of my experience, I’ve sensed the work of the wider faith community — after losing my guitar, in my request for prayer at the pastor’s meeting, the request for prayer when someone needed a kidney, the prayers and support from you as well as family and friends in other places, as I underwent surgery, the prayers and support as I took time off work. Community played a role as I learned through the Canadian Mennonite magazine about the other pastor who donated a kidney. And, my connection with Russ Sawatsky through mission work and the wider Mennonite community was another area where community played a role. It’s good to hear that Russ is now doing well, and also the person who directly received my kidney here in BC. I also feel pretty much back to normal.

So, what about each of us, in our lives? Where might God be leading us to take a small step of faith? Jesus said we only need faith the size of a tiny mustard seed. The reason is, God recognizes our little attempts to be faithful, and brings us the rest of the way. Each of us are called to really just take a small step. It usually involves some risk. Maybe God is calling you to take a step. Many people have already signed a donor card. It can easily be done online, and even kids can sign up. A link is provided in the bulletin, but you can also just do a search for “BC Transplant.” Someone who has registered a decision to donate any organs needed, after death, could potentially save the lives of eight different people. Or, some of us may feel a calling to sometime become a live donor. Recently, I was amazed to hear that if you donate a part of your liver, it grows back! If I’d known that, maybe I should have done a liver donation rather than kidney! No… I have no regrets. Maybe someday I’ll consider the liver. But, one thing is becoming more and more clear to me. I think I may never have experienced donating a kidney if it hadn’t been for the supportive community and the encouragement I experienced in the small steps along the way.

Let’s pray.

Almighty God, you have blessed us with so much! Thank-you for all you’ve given us. Thank-you that through your Son, Jesus we have perfect peace and joy. Thank-you for the gift of your church. Each day, you lead us, O Lord. Thank-you that no matter what happens around us we need not fear, because you walk with us. Help us to trust that you always provide us with everything we need to do your will. Increase our generosity, that we may rely more and more on you and less and less on ourselves. Grant us the courage to step out in faith. Help us to notice those areas where you call us to step in and help bear another’s burden. May we recognise the opportunities you give us to take those small steps of faith, through the power of Christ at work within us, Amen.