Wednesday, June 23, 2010

British Columbia dad gets new heart as Father's Day gift

Port Moody dad gets new heart as Father's Day gift
Family thankful for new lease on life


Chris Kirby received his most-hoped-for Father's Day present — the gift of life.

The 34-year-old Port Moody father woke up with a new heart Sunday after receiving word that a donor had been found 19 months to the day after he signed up for the procedure.

Kirby was just settling in to do some gardening with his three-year-old daughter, Morgan, when his cellphone rang.

His wife, Tanya Fawkes-Kirby, passed him the phone.

"They called and said, 'Your heart's here,'" she told The Province Monday. "We just looked at each other, and then I ran around trying to call his mom and his dad and get organized.

"It was a mad blur."

The two arranged a babysitter for Morgan, packed a bag and rushed off to Vancouver.

It wasn't until they arrived at St. Paul's Hospital that they realized the timeliness of the call.

"We were like, 'Wow, what a Father's Day gift,"' Fawkes-Kirby said. "This is a good one."

Kirby was diagnosed with heart disease when he was 15 years old, and had to have surgery at 18 when he went into cardiac arrest.

"He did pretty well until 2007 or so, and then 2008 was when everything started to really go downhill for him," Fawkes-Kirby said. "His activity dropped and dropped."

She and her husband used to go running together, and he would take Morgan to the park.

His heart was only working at about 20 per cent, and he wasn't able to walk more than a block before feeling light-headed.

"I mean, in 2006, we ran a marathon together," his wife said. "By 2008, he wasn't able to do a flight of stairs.

"We've been waiting for so long. To have it done is a nice, huge relief."

It's an even bigger relief, she added with a laugh, because she's due to give birth to twins any day now.

Sunday had been like celebrating a type of "double Father's Day," she said. "[This transplant] came just in time, all the way around."

Her husband was recovering in the intensive care unit Monday, and "doing really well." He was awake and recognized his family at their first visit, and Fawkes-Kirby hopes he can be moved to a regular ward today.

It'll take about a year for her husband to get back to his old self, she said. But he'll be able to take care of and play with his kids, and get back to jogging with his wife.

"That's one of the things, definitely, we're excited to be able to get back to doing."

Though Kirby's transplant was one of a few that took place in the past week, only 17 per cent of British Columbians — or 756,000 people — are registered donors.

"That's something we're just starting to think about — how totally appreciative we are that whoever his donor was had taken the time to sign up," Fawkes-Kirby said. "[He or she is] just an awesome person."

Her husband was getting worse the last few months, and "it was time. It had to happen," she said.

"It would have been a way harder road if this donor hadn't come up when [he or she] did.

"That couple of minutes that he or she took [to sign up] totally made a huge difference to Chris."

The couple is thinking about others waiting "on pins and needles" for either themselves or their loved ones to get the same call her husband did.

As of last month, 322 people in B.C. were waiting for organs such as lungs, kidneys, pancreases and livers. Nine were waiting for a heart, and another nine had their transplants this year.

"B. C. Transplant encourages all British Columbians to register their decision on organ donation," said spokeswoman Gabrielle Nye, even if you do not wish to donate.

It takes a few minutes and a CareCard to register online at

“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: - Learn The Ins & Outs Of Organ And Tissue Donation. Register Today! 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 (see allotransplantation). One tissue donor can help 75 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. Organs can save lives, corneas renew vision, and tissue may help to restore someone's ability to walk, run or move freely without pain. Life Begins with You

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