Posted By Angelica Blenich The Echo, Haliburton County
The sun's refusal to come out of hiding this past summer left many Haliburton residents dismayed, especially those who own cottages that can only be enjoyed for a short period of time. Heather Coneybeare however, was more than thrilled with the grey weather.
"I'm supposed to stay out of the sun," laughs Coneybeare, "so while everyone was complaining about the lack of sunshine we received this past summer for me it was great."
Last December Coneybeare was the recipient of a liver transplant and several blood transfusions. After spending three months in a hospital bed she was released this past February with some strict rules to follow, such as staying out of the sun. This year Coneybeare will be celebrating a much different Christmas with her family thanks to the selfless generosity of people she had never before met.
"I feel great," says Coneybeare. "I got to do the Christmas shopping this year and be a part of the neighborhood Christmas events. Just in general it's nice to be back home and doing the things I should be doing. There's things that take me longer to do," she says, "like cleaning the house. The energy level isn't there. But considering what kind of shape I was in before Christmas last year, there are things I can now do, like cook a turkey dinner."
In between wrapping presents for her daughter and celebrating the Christmas season with friends and family, Coneybeare will also be finding the time to advocate for a cause that she holds close to her heart, or more literally her liver.
"I got a call from Peterborough from the blood donor clinic," she says, "and I'm hoping to be able to go to their clinic as well as Bancroft's. They've asked me to come and help tell people about how important it is to have their blood donated. I certainly hope through my experience people will realize that miracles do happen," says Coneybeare, "and that it might make them more likely to consider donating."
The blood transfusions that Coneybeare received, six in total, were just part in parcel with her liver transplant. She is appreciative of both the blood and the organ she is now storing safely in her body.
"I don't ever mind talking about my experience because you never know who it could happen to next," she says. "What I hope comes out of my experience is that other people can see the benefit of it all and the appreciation of the fact that without these people, people like myself wouldn't be here. I'm so thankful for people who support blood and organ donation."
Coneybeare still does not know any of the details pertaining to her donor. Although she completed an appreciation letter for the donor family, she merely submitted it to Toronto General, the hospital responsible for the transplant surgery, who sent it on her behalf.
"It's still the issue of someone having had to die so that I could live," says Coneybeare when discussing the need to respect one's wishes for privacy. "It took a while to get my head around that one."
The truth of this matter can make the decision to donate an organ that much more traumatic for family members.
"I know it's a difficult time [when someone loses a loved one] to actually say you would donate an organ but they are needed," she says. "It's just an issue that is hard for some people to wrap their head around. A common misconception is that a donated organ has to come from a family member. An organ can come from almost anyone."
According to a new study published by the Canadian Institute for Health Information (CIHI), despite an increase in organ donations over the past number of years, Canada still has a long way to go.
While the availability of donated organs in Canada rose by more than 28 per cent over the past decade, this increase is not keeping pace with demand. Last year, about 215 Canadians died while waiting for an organ transplant. The study goes on to state that the number of living donors has exceeded the number of deceased donors for the past eight years and accounts for 69 per cent of the increase in donors over the past decade. In contrast, the rate of deceased donors' organs has not risen as quickly.
A deceased donor can provide up to six organs for transplantation. On average, however, 3.6 organs per deceased donor were transplanted in 2008.
"The need for transplantable organs has never been greater," explains Dr. John Gill, associate professor of medicine at the University of British Columbia, a division of Nephrology at St. Paul's hospital in Vancouver, throughout the study. "The option of organ and tissue donation should be offered to all patients who die in Canadian hospitals and should be incorporated as an essential component of end-of-life care."
For Coneybeare, it was literally a matter of life or death.
"There are still people in need of transplants dying," says Coneybeare. "It's important to donate, it's a gift of life."
“You Have the Power to Save Lives – Register to be an organ and tissue donor & Tell Your Loved Ones of Your Decision”
Register to be a donor in Ontario or Download Donor Cards from Trillium Gift of Life Network. NEW for Ontario: recycleMe.org - Learn The Ins & Outs Of Organ And Tissue Donation. Register Today! For other Canadian provinces click here
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
Has your life been saved by an organ transplant? "Pay it forward" and help spread the word about the need for organ donation - In the U.S. another person is added to the national transplant waiting list every 11 minutes and 18 people die each day waiting for an organ or tissue transplant.