Organ Donation: A New Lease On Life
Patient Perspective ‘Life-changing,’ ‘miraculous,’ ‘a gift of life’ — all common terms used by organ donor recipients.
Organ donations are about much more than simply prolonging life; for many, an organ donation is a second chance, an opportunity to experience and do things once considered impossible.
Essex Ontario native Kaidyn Blair is in many ways a pretty ordinary 12-year-old. Kaidyn loves sports, likes to hang out with friends, and play video games. And, like many 12-year-old boys, he is a relentless ball of energy.
One week to live
However, Kaidyn is far from ordinary. Shortly after birth, Kaidyn was diagnosed with congenital biliary atresia, a condition affecting the bile duct between the liver and the small intestine. “I was diagnosed with a virus in my third trimester that attacked his bile ducts,” says Kaidyn’s mother Tammy. “He couldn’t excrete bile; it was building up inside him. After he was born he became skinny, sickly, and couldn’t crawl or even eat on his own. They told us after the transplant that he had just one week to live on his own.”
"With his massive list of achievements to date, it’s hard to see anything getting in his way."
Kaidyn received a liver transplant just three days after his first birthday, and according to Tammy, never looked back. “After a month he was crawling and eating on his own. After another month he was walking and running, and he hasn’t stopped running since,” says Tammy, with a hearty laugh. Kaidyn, to put it mildly, is the sporting type. He has competed in the Canadian and World Transplant Games, broken records, and has won more medals than Michael Phelps could ever dream. “He has twenty medals from the Canadian games,” says Tammy. “He competed at the World Transplant Games in South Africa and broke three records, set two, and got the youth award from among 48 countries.”
Kaidyn’s achievements are extremely impressive — especially for a child with so many obstacles to overcome. When asked to recall his favourite memory of his many sporting exploits, Kaidyn comes back with an answer that is both modest and heartwarming. “My favourite memory was making friends,” says Kaidyn. Fittingly, Kaidyn sees his future working in sport, “I want to be an athlete or maybe a sports broadcaster,” he says. With his massive list of achievements to date, it’s hard to see anything getting in his way.
Kaidyn’s story, as inspiring as it is, was only made possible because of organ donation. Dr. Aubrey Goldstein is President of the Canadian Transplant Association and has personal experience of the benefits of transplantation. “I received a liver transplant sixteen years ago,” says Dr. Goldstein. “I had primary sclerosing cholantitis. What happens is that the bile ducts become narrow and scarred. Bile backs up and destroys the liver itself. So, for me, a transplant was necessary. The only reason Kaidyn and I are alive is because someone donated their liver or part of their liver. If it wasn’t for them, we’d both be underground now.”
Life after transplantation
Like Kaidyn, Dr. Goldstein has competed at the Transplant Games. “The point of the games is to show that after transplant you’re healthy and well. You can live, compete, and enjoy a normal life. There’s no reason why you can’t enjoy sports and be active in your community,” says Dr. Goldstein. “There is real life after transplantation. I have a friend who is now living thirty years with a liver transplant and my wife just donated a kidney to a friend last week.”
Stories like Kaidyn’s and Dr. Goldstein’s are truly inspirational but are far from miraculous — they are the result of medical advances and the everyday reality of human selflessness. Long may that continue.