Friday, May 26, 2006

Brief Intermission

I'll be away for a few days and will resume regular posts when I return. Meanwhile please feel free to browse the extensive links and previous posts. Merv.

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Marya Pitcher 1954 - 2006

I'm forwarding the announcement below from Marya's husband Lew as received. Here is a photo of Marya from the Lung Christmas Party, 2003.

I got to know Marya quite well, having first met her in Toronto General Hospital when she was on the waiting list for a lung transplant. At the time I believe she told me she was the oldest living Cystic Fibrosis patient to receive a lung transplant (at age 49). Many will also remember seeing Marya and Lew at the Lung Transplant Picnics.

Please join me in extending our deepest sympathy and condolences to Lew and family. Merv.
click here to send a message to Lew.


"Hello, Merv

I thought that you should know that Marya Pitcher, who received her double lung transplant in May of 2003, passed away on March 25, 2006.

She had been in TGH for about a month, battling a lung infection and kidney failure. The doctors had both under control (the infection was gone, and her kidneys were coming back) and they had hopes of moving her to a rehab hospital soon so that she could regain some of the strength that she had lost while being bed-ridden.

Unfortunately, sometime during the night of March 23, she got a fast moving infection in one of her legs, and by the next day had to be moved to MSICU for treatment. My wife was a fighter; she never gave up. She fought the infection for a day and a half (under massive sedation, on a respirator, and emergency dialysis) before the infection overcame her. She passed away at 6:32 PM on the birthday of our deceased daughter.

I don't know how much of this you would put in the newsletter, but I have to put it all down. Please pass on as much as you feel appropriate to the rest of the newsletter recipients.

My wife never gave up hope, and never gave in to her illnesses. Her strength was my strength. I love her forever; I'll miss her forever.

Lew Pitcher"

Click on comments to leave a tribute.

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Every day is exciting

Since my lung transplant I have been very appreciative and thankful for the second chance I've been given and look forward to each day with anticipation and excitement about what the day will bring. Usually I say to myself "what will I see new today and who will I meet that will take my life in a different direction?"

This past Saturday I met many new people, enjoyed excellent entertainment and came upon some great finds at a flea market. I met the beekeeper above at the St. Jacob's Farmer's Market (just north of Waterloo, Ontario). Well, I guess he wasn't the real beekeeper but I asked another shopper to take the above picture of me for posterity.

The market is only a 10 minute drive from my home and I go often, but I never have seen it as crowded as it was Saturday. I guess the reason is because it was a long holiday weekend here in Ontario and the May 24th weekend is the traditional time people in this area plant their flowers; and there is no better place to browse among such a wide variety of growers and vendors. I spoke to people from as far away as Toronto who came specifically to get their spring plants.When I first arrived at the market, after figuring out a way to beat the traffic line-up, I came upon the above sea of humanity crowded in front of the Flea Market building. Then I heard the music and made my way to see what it was all about. The picture below tells the tale. A student band from Africa is in Canada to promote AIDS awarenes by performing at various venus, such as this (they were great!).

I didn't get a photo of the food area in the market building but it was very, very busy. After getting my sausage on a bun (with sauerkraut) and a drink, I had to wait and search for a place to sit down. It wasn't long before someone gave me their seat. In the short time I was in the lunch area, I met and had conversations with people from China, Japan , Europe and Canada. All were extremely friendly and I learned a lot about them. Our food, such as apple fritters and sausage on a bun, were unfamiliar to the Chinese group and they wanted to know all about it.

I also had a chance to tell my lung transplant story and promote organ and tissue donation awareness.

All in all Saturday was a very good day for me.

Friday, May 19, 2006

Organ Donation Awareness at Oakville-Trafalgar Memorial Hospital

Ida Bevilacqua, TGLN
Ida Bevilacqua (above), Organ & Tissue Donation Coordinator for Trillium Gift of Life Network (TGLN), along with donor mom Eya Donald-Greenland and myself, had a wonderful opportunity yesterday to talk about organ and tissue donation to the ICU & other staff at Oakville-Trafalgar Memorial Hospital in Oakville, Ontario. Attendance for the two sessions was about 50 or so. It was also a pleasure to meet Hospital Chaplain Catherine Thompson, a strong advocate for organ donation, who facilitated the program and provided support. more photos.

Ida highlighted the importance of the audience's role in saving or enhancing lives through organ and tissue donation and noted the following facts:

  • There are more than 1750 people in Ontario waiting for a transplant.

  • So far this year, less than 340 people actually received a transplant.

  • Every 3 days someone dies waiting for an organ transplant.

  • One organ donor can save up to 7 lives and enhance the lives of up to 75 others through tissue donation.

  • Everyone is a potential organ and tissue donor, regardless of his/her age. To date, the oldest Canadian organ donor was over 90 years of age while the oldest tissue donor was 102 years old.

  • Even an individual with serious illness can sometimes be an organ or tissue donor.

  • There are no costs associated with organ or tissue donation.

  • The organs and tissue that can be donated include: heart, liver, kidneys, pancreas, lungs, small bowel, stomach, corneas, heart valves, bone and skin.

  • Most major religions support organ and tissue donation.

  • Organ and tissue donation does not affect funeral services and you can still have an open casket.

  • Even if you have signed your organ donation card you need to speak to your family about your wishes.

Eya Donald-Greenland gave an emotional presentation from a donor mother's perspective and I told my lung transplant story.

These combined presentations, from TGLN, a donor family and a transplant recipient, will hopefully have left a lasting impression on our healthcare professionals as we all work to improve the rate of organ and tissue donation in Ontario.

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Coming events

Here's a list of coming events you may be interested in. The links provide complete details.

  • Trillium Gift of Life Network Check often for calendar of events, news releases, statistics, etc. Donor cards can also be obtained here. There have been qute a few news releases recently and well worth checking out.

  • Toronto General & Western Hospital Foundation fundraising events.

  • Windsor,Ontario events

  • Bread and Honey Races Sunday, June 4, 2006, Streetsville, ON. 15K & 5K races. (a good alternative for runners & joggers who can't make it to the transplant games)

  • Transplant Open Golf Wednesday, June 7, 2006 - click on the link for full details or email Tracey Jack (phone: 905-820-9012) or Peter Laurence (phone: (416) 471-1421 for information or to register.

  • Memorial Service Honoring organ & tissue donors & their families. June 9, 2006 7 P.M., St. Michael's Cathedral, Toronto.

  • U.S. Transplant Games Louisville, June 16-21, 2006

  • Lung Transplant Picnic Huron Park, Mississauga, Ontario Sunday, June 18/06 12 P.M. - contact: Merv Sheppard

  • Canadian Transplant Games Edmonton, Aug 8-13, 2006

  • Be a Lifesaver Walk for Organ Donation Awareness, Sunday, Oct 1/06.

  • Advance notice of 2007 events

  • World Transplant Games Bangkok Aug 25-Sept 3, 2007
  • Monday, May 15, 2006

    Take a Hike!

    Merv at the trail's head
    One of the keys to the long-term survival of a transplant recipient is regular daily exercise and springtime offers a wonderful opportunity to get outdoors and enjoy nature. This past weekend I went hiking along the Mill Race Trail in St. Jacobs, ON. Not only did I feel terrific after the hike but the whole outing was very enjoyable.

    The shady trail winds between two rivers and wildlife abounds. I saw a huge muskrat, a ruffed grouse, hundreds of ducks and geese plus numerous species of birds. I also got to meet some very nice people. Hikers tend to be very friendly.

    I can highly recommend taking a hike as not only a great way to get in your daily exercise but also as an enjoyable experience.

    Sunday, May 14, 2006

    Happy Mother's Day

    My Mother, Evelyn Sheppard

    Evelyn Sheppard

    Today we honor our mothers who have given us so much in life. For some of us, we can only remember our mothers by paying some sort of a tribute, such as the person that took out a full page ad in our local paper. But many of us have mothers still living and we can do something special to show our love and appreciation for all they have done. We can give them a gift, pay a visit or take them to brunch or dinner. Sometimes distance means we can only show our moms how much we care by making a phone call or sending a card or flowers. Whatever your situation is I hope you will remember your mother today.

    For me, I was able to visit my mother who is still living in her own home. She will be 92 this year and although Alzheimer’s is starting to set in, she is in great health and spirits. Happy Mother's Day Mom and thanks for everything.

    Friday, May 12, 2006

    Planning a Funeral & Organ & Tissue Donation

    Reverend Dr. Robert Matton, minister of Binbrook, Ontario United Church had seen or been made aware of many needless problems and complications involving funeral arrangements, family conflicts, inheritance issues, financial and tax matters and organ donation that could have been avoided by proper planning and the use of professional advice. So he organized a public meeting on Planning a Funeral at the church Thursday evening, May 11th. Notice that Rev. Matton is proudly displaying his green wrist band as he congratulates me on my "Gift" of a lung transplant".

    Rev. Matton put a lot of thought into this event and I was very pleased to be part of it. Here's the list of speakers he was able to assemble for the evening's agenda:

    • Funeral Arrangements: Tom Busch, Donald V. Brown Funeral Home, Stoney Creek, ON

    • Legal Questions: Ralph Benedict, Benedict and Ferguson, Caledonia, ON

    • Money Matters: Catherine Nichollas & Laura Staniulescu, TD Canada Trust, Elfrida, ON

    • Organ Donation: Merv Sheppard, Trillium Gift of Life Network

    I learned a lot from listening to the other speakers and came away with much food for thought. For example, at the very least, we all should have a Will and Power of Attorney drawn up by a legal professional expert in these areas, because there are so many inheritance, tax, and financial implications that using a do-it-yourself kit can miss or not provide for.

    It was heartwarming to see that Rev. Matton was so pro organ and tissue donation. He strongly supported giving "The Gift of Life" in his opening and closing remarks and also read a letter from Trillium Gift of Life Network to a donor family from his congregation.

    In general the audience was very receptive to organ and tissue donation and most took Organ Donor Cards and green ribbons home with them.

    Wednesday, May 10, 2006

    Halton Healthcare Nurses Conference

    Lucia Bosnakova & Merv SheppardIn conjunctin with Nursing Week 2006, Halton Healthcare's Office of Professional Practice presented a conference May 9th on the ethical issues in health care. I was privileged to attend and set-up a display on behalf of Trillium Gift of Life Network to promote organ and tissue donation awareness.

    From the moment I walked into the conference center I was greeted and treated royaly by the organizing committee. My thanks go to the committee and a special thanks goes to Lucia Bosnakova, RN from the Oakville-Trafalgar Memorial Hospital ICU. She helped me set-up and take down our banner and made sure I had refreshments and lunch, etc. That's Lucia with me in the photo.

    Almost 200 nurses and other professionals attended. As a matter of fact, the room was totally full and the organizers told me they had to turn away some late registrants. The reason for this huge turnout was the speaker: Dr. Diann B. Uustal, RN, MS, Ed.D., a widely recognized and dynamic speaker from the United States with a thought provoking presentation style.

    Although the subject was the ethical responsiblity of nursing practice, Dr. Uustal's guidelines are applicable to many walks of life and I came away with much food for thought. As an example, I made a note to make sure I know my core values and then talk them and walk them. Another thought that stayed with me was that if you don't trust one another you don't go anywhere in a relationship.

    Our display booth was very well attended and the nurses took time to ask many questions about organ and tissue donation. Several asked for my card so they could contact Trillium Gift of Life Network to have a speaker address their local hospitals.

    Sunday, May 07, 2006

    Be A Lifesaver Walk for Organ Donation Awareness, October 1, 2006

    Sunday, October 1st, 2006 you can be a Lifesaver by helping to promote Organ and Tissue Donation Awareness by participating in the 3rd annual Be A Lifesaver Walk for Organ Donation Awareness. Mark you calendar!

    Ontario communities confirmed to participate so far are: Hamilton, Brantford, St. Catharines, Welland, Niagara-on-the-Lake, Sarnia, London, Windsor, Kitchener-Waterloo, Guelph, Walkerton, Huntsville, Saulte Ste. Marie, Blind River and Timmins. More are coming on board daily. Check with your local Kidney Foundation Branch for details about your area. Or you can also send an email and it will be forwarded to the local area walk coordinator.

    Over the past two years the Kidney Foundation of Canada, Greater Ontario Branch has raised over $500,000 to support organ transplant research, promote public education programs and raise community awareness about the neeed for more organ and tissue donors by spreading the message to Ontarians to speak to their families about their wishes through their annual Be A Lifesaver Walk for Organ Donation Awareness.

    This year there will be an even greater opportunity to participate with so many more communities joining the walk. Also, there will be peer-to-peer on-line fundraising and new "Lifesavers" apparal to be given to participants who raise a minimum of $25 in pledges.

    Saturday, May 06, 2006

    Living Green Ribbon Photos

    Photos of Living Green Ribbons from all participating Ontario communities are now posted on the Living Green Ribbon web site.

    Events were held on April 26th at the same time in Kitchener-Waterloo (shown above), Ottawa, Toronto, London, Kingston, Hamilton, Sarnia, Thunder Bay, Chatham Kent and Windsor.

    As you will see, the turnout was excellent in all communities. Some ribbons were quite unique, I thought, like Sarnia's white border, Chatham's huge field and Hamilton's square bow. But all were filled with the warmth and love of our organ and tissue donation recipients, soon to be recipients, supports, family, friends and the general public interested in helping to give the "Gift of Life" to their fellow human beings in need.

    This year has seen great strides in Organ and Tissue Donation awareness in Ontario and both the Kidney Foundation and Trillium Gift of Life Network deserve to be recognized for their initiatives and wonderful support that has already seen an almost twenty percent increase in donors this year over last year.

    Friday, May 05, 2006

    Donald Marshall's third anniversary

    I am pleased to post this message from Donald Marshall's very good friend and support person Jane McMillan.

    "Dear Merv,
    Today [May 5th] is Donald Marshall's third (lung transplant) anniversary. Despite a difficult and well publicized period, Donald's health is terrific, his lung function continues to improve. He is vital and athletic, lifting weights and fishing in the rivers of Nova Scotia. His new lease on life enables him to continue to fight the series of injustices that have plagued him in the past. On this day I recall with such gratefulness the first smile and the joy in his eyes when he woke up from the surgery, a memory I will treasure forever. I pray that all may share such an experience.
    All the best,
    Jane McMillan"

    License plate promoting Organ & Tissue Donation Awareness now available in Ontario

    Last week was National Organ and Tissue Donation Week and to celebrate this Ontario's Trillium Gift of Life Network (TGLN) unveiled their new licence plate designed to keep organ and tissue donation at the top of our minds all year round.

    As TGLN Board of Directors Member Diane Craig said in their press release: "This licence plate has so many meanings. It is our hope that it celebrates those who have given the gift of life. We also hope that it serves as an important reminder to sign your donor card and speak to your family about your wishes. This licence plate is about making you aware every day of the year that your decision can save a life." Full Press Release

    The Gift of Life Licence Plate is now available through the Ministry of Transportation. In addition, MTO will be reminding Ontarians to give the gift of life with a message on the back of every license plate renewal envelope containing an organ and tissue donation card inside.

    Wednesday, May 03, 2006

    What a week it was for Organ & Tissue Donation Awareness

    Living Green Ribbon, Kitchener, ONLast week was Organ and Tissue Donation Awareness Week in Canada and I was privileged to be part of some of the many activities. Here is the Living Green Ribbon created in Kitchener, Ontario Wednesday morning April 26th. Thanks to excellent media coverage a good crowd turned out to show their support for organ and tissue donation. It was heartwarming to see a good turnout from our lung transplant community and I can remember talking to transplant recipients Kellie Cooper, Denise Secours, Wilf Yantzi, Mike Chwastiak, Robert Brush, Jessica Mogg, Mary Kanters and many of their families, support persons and friends. (more photos from Kitchener)

    For photos of all Ontario Living Green Ribbon events click here.

    The media coverage never let up all week. The newspapers and TV were extremely supportive and interested in Organ and Tissue Donation. I'm sure they were motivated in great part by the many and excellent media releases from Trillium Gift of Life Network (TGLN). As an example, our local newspaper, The Record, did an interview with me and included a notice about the Living Green Ribbon. A reporter for Rogers TV read the article and sought me out for an interview.

    At the Birthday Ball Wednesday evening in Toronto, many speakers talked about Organ Donation Awareness, including Dr. Frank Markel, President and CEO, Trillium Gift of Life Network and the Ontario government Minister of Health, George Smitherman.

    The next day, Thursday, I participated in a panel discussion with the ICU/CCU staff at Toronto General Hospital. On Friday I manned a display at St. Mary's Hospital in Kitchener.

    This just reflects my small part in the week's activities. Multiply that by the hundreds or thousands involved across the Province and I'm sure you will agree that we are starting to turn the corner and have an impact on organ and tissue donation rates.