Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Victim lives on through donations

This story has great meaning for me. I was a mentor to Grant Hagerty before his double-lung transplant at Toronto General Hospital and we have been friends ever since. Grant is a wonderful example for all organ recipients. He helps to save lives by advocating for organ donation awareness and lives a positive, healthy and active lifestyle while continuing to work full-time.

Cecily Kowalik-Grant Hagerty-Moira Austin

CecilyKowalik (left), the mother of organ donor Kyla Kowalik; lung recipient Grant Hagerty (center); and Moira Austin, chair of St. Mary's Hospital organ and tissue donation committee.

Staff at St. Mary's Hospital learns what organ donation means to the family of late teenager

By LIZ MONTEIRO Waterloo Region Record

Within minutes of being told her 17-year-old daughter was dead, Cecily Kowalik asked hospital staff if her eldest child could donate organs or tissue.

"I needed her to live on," Kowalik told a boardroom of staff at St. Mary's Hospital in Kitchener yesterday.

"When you find out what you have lost . . ." she said, choking with emotion as she looked at a framed photo of Kyla Kowalik. "Immediately someone can benefit," she added.

Kyla died Nov. 6, 2006, of a complication following knee surgery.

A Grade 12 student at Waterloo-Oxford District Secondary School in Baden, Kyla had had a successful operation on her right knee and was recovering at home when she fell down some stairs. An autopsy showed she died from blood clots in the veins going from her heart to her lungs.

To raise awareness for Organ and Tissue Donation Month in April, the hospital invited Cecily Kowalik to speak yesterday, along with Grant Hagerty of Waterloo.

Hagerty received a double-lung transplant nearly three years ago.

At St. Mary's, three livers and four kidneys donated in the last year saved seven lives. Twenty-four people donated their eyes; three others, bones.

Moira Austin, chair of the hospital's organ and tissue donation committee, is being recognized by the Trillium Gift of Life Network for her work in the field. She is an intensive-care nurse at the hospital.

Two young females received a knee and ankle from Kyla. Her eyes helped a young boy and a man.

"I hope we changed the life of people who received her tissue," Cecily said.

Cecily Kowalik said she looks forward to getting in touch with the recipients who received a part of Kyla.

"It would be my dream to meet those two girls," she said in an interview. "I would be so proud of them, and I want them to know that to have a part of her (Kyla) live on in someone else is such a blessing."

Hagerty, 54, said he's thankful to be alive each day.

"I lived on death's doorstep," he said, recalling being hooked up to an oxygen tank around the clock.

He was diagnosed with an autoimmune disorder in 1985. In 2005, his medication costs soared to $55,000. "Without the grace and charity of an organ family, I simply wouldn't be here today," he said.

Hagerty had his transplant on Aug. 6, 2006 at Toronto General Hospital.

He said he has lost eight friends who were waiting for transplants, or who died after the procedure.

Hagerty often reflects on his good fortune. "I live (life) full throttle,": said Hagerty, who runs, cycles, swims, teaches disabled children to ski and works full-time as a sales representative for DTZ Barnicke Ltd.

"I learn to be more in the moment because it can change so quickly."

“You Have the Power to Save Lives – Sign Your Donor Card & Tell Your Loved Ones of Your Decision”

Register to be a donor in Ontario or Download Donor Cards from Trillium Gift of Life Network
For other Canadian provinces click here

In the United States, be sure to find out how to register in your state at or Download Donor Cards from OrganDonor.Gov

In Great Britain, register at NHS Organ Donor Register

In Australia, register at Australian Organ Donor Register

Your generosity can save up to eight lives with heart, kidneys, liver, lungs, pancreas and small intestine transplants. One tissue donor can help up to 100 other people by donating skin, corneas, bone, tendon, ligaments and heart valves

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