Friday, September 18, 2009

'Frustrating' waiting for transplant

British Columbia father of two-year-old needs new heart to play with his little girl

By John Colebourn The Province

Chris Kirby has big plans for his little girl when he gets a new heart.

Like any young dad, Kirby, 34, wants to one day play in the park with his two-year-old daughter Morgan. He would also like to go jogging with his wife, Tanya, the way they did just a few years ago. But first he has to wait. And he has no idea how long it will take to get his life-saving heart transplant.

"It is very frustrating," Kirby said Wednesday from the Port Moody home he is confined to while his wife goes to work and his daughter to a babysitter because he is too ill to care for her.

"I'm not one to sit back and watch things," said Kirby, who was healthy enough to run a half-marathon just two years ago.

"It's all very restricting," he explained of the sedentary lifestyle he now leads with a heart that works at about 20-per-cent capacity.

"I can't lift my daughter up and I can't run after her. I don't have the energy to look after her. She's fast," he said of life with Morgan while waiting for a heart donor.

"It's a matter of life and death for me waiting like this," said Kirby who can't walk more than a block without getting light-headed.

"Heart disease can happen to anyone," he added. "Please, we just need more people out there to be donors. It could be your daughter or son or a newborn with this disease."

Kirby waits knowing that fewer organs in B.C. are available for people in desperate need. Better surgical procedures, people being more careful on the roads and using seat-belts and taking better precautions such as wearing a helmet when riding a bike are some of the reasons those in need of an organ often have long waits.

Despite 85 per cent of B.C.ers saying they support organ donations, only 17 per cent are registered, B.C. Transplant spokesman Ken Donohue said. Donohue pointed out that one organ donor could potentially save numerous lives by providing two kidneys, a heart, two lungs, a liver and a pancreas. Less than one per cent of all deaths result in potential organ donations. "I think part of it is we lead busy lives and don't think about organ donations because it doesn't impact us," he said. "It just isn't on their radar."

The median wait time for a heart transplant in 2006 was two months, in 2007 three months and in 2008 it was one month. But Donohue said the wait time in 2009 will be much longer.

Kirby has been told it could be a year or more before there is a match.

People can register their decision about organ donations on the Organ Donor Registry at B.C. Transplant.

Despite his limited mobility, Kirby plans to join Vancouver Mayor Gregor Robertson and others in a kick-off event by the City of Vancouver and B.C. Transplant to encourage the public to become organ donors.


B.C. patients waiting for organs

Kidney 225

Liver 29

Single lung 15

Heart 13

Pancreas -- kidney 9

Pancreas islet 9

Pancreas 7

Double lung 6

Total 313

source: B.C. Transplant Society

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