Judy (right) is always smiling and has been promoting organ donation awareness since her transplant in December, 2011. Here she is with Andrea Blackler at a quilt raffle promotion. (click image for larger view)
By Vincent Ball The Brantford Expositor
Judy Postma is the picture of health these days and has an active life that includes a lot of travelling thanks to someone she's never met.
Postma is a heart and double-lung transplant recipient and was one of more than 50 people to participate in the 17th annual Brant County (Ontario) Organ Donor Awareness Bonspiel on Saturday.
"I try to come here every year to bring awareness because I think it's a great thing that they're doing," Postma said. "We want to keep it out there, keep people talking about it and ensure people know that organ donation works and it saves lives.
"It's the final act of kindness that you can do."
She received her new organs in December 2001 and the donation has enabled her to live a full life.
"I curl a lot, I do a lot of exercise classes and I travel all over the world," she said. (Judy told me she recently visited Bora Bora in French Polynesia where she actually swam with sharks. Merv)
Although she hasn't met the family of the person who donated the organs, she has been in contact with that person's family by way of an exchange of letters.
Asked to describe her feelings when she speaks about the donor, Postma becomes emotional and has to suppress tears.
"I'm going to start to cry," she said during the interview. "I feel very, very grateful that someone thought about donating their organs.
"I was on the waiting list for about two years when I received them and after the operation, the doctors said that when I received them, I only had about a month left to live."
An inspiration to many of the other participants in Saturday's bonspiel, Postma is extremely fortunate given the province's record with respect to organ donation.
"We have more than 1,500 in Ontario waiting for an organ to keep them alive and we don't have enough donors," Reg Madison, who chaired the bonspiel's organizing committee. "Canada is one of the poorest countries and Ontario is one of the poorest provinces in terms of people making their organs available for transplant."
The bonspiel is held annually to bring awareness to the lives that can be saved through organ donation, the need to sign a donor card and to involve your family, Madison said.
It's imperative that a person's family knows your wishes are to donate a specific organ or a number of organs, he said.
The luncheon included testimonials from organ transplant recipients and participants also had a chance to hear from Frank Markel, the president and CEO of the Trillium Gift of Life Network.
"We have 1,500 people in Ontario who are waiting for an organ. That's 1,500 people whose lives are on hold until an organ becomes available," Markel said. "The frustrating part about this is that their lives can be turned around completely with the donation of an organ. We have all of the scientific information and medical expertise but the problem is we don't have enough donors."
Events like the bonspiel help raise awareness and encourage people to sign their donor cards and make sure their families are aware of their wishes, he said.
"Many people are under the misconception that because they're middle-aged or older that they're too old to donate their organs," he said. "They support the idea but think their organs can't be used.
But it's just not true. We've had organ donors as old as 90. We encourage people of all ages to sign their donor cards and make sure their wishes are known to their families."
He has been the president and CEO of gift for life since 2005 and has heard a lot of inspiring stories over the years. Recently, Markel was in Windsor where he presented medals to the families of donors.
"It's a very sobering experience. I just have to stand in awe of these families who can see beyond their grief following the death of a loved one and have the organs donated.
You see how generous they are and you can't help but stand in awe of their courage and generosity."
For more information: Trillium Gift of Life Network, 522 University Ave. Suite 900, Toronto, On. M5G 1W7, telephone -1-800-263-2833 or 1-416-363-4001, e-mail Trillium Gift of Life or visit the web site: Trillium Gift of Life Network
“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 at 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
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In the United States, be sure to find out how to register in your state at ShareYourLife.org 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 or enhance the lives of up to fifty people with heart, kidneys, liver, lungs, pancreas and small intestine transplants (see allotransplantation). One tissue donor can help 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