Gravenhurst rallies to organ donor cause
ALL IN THE FAMILY..
Polycystic Kidney Disease patient Jean Vardon (top row, second from left) is joined by friends and family at an organ donor awareness event at the Frosty Pint Pub in Gravenhurst on Saturday, Nov. 17, 2012. Pictured here, in the top row to the left of Jean is Aaron Vardon. To the right of Jean are Bruce Vardon, Sandy Cairns and Jim Vardon. On the bottom row, from left to right are Justin Scribner, Cheryl Scribner, Danica Scribner and Cailyn Scribner. (Photo by Louis Tam)
November 21, 2012
Gravenhurst had no shortage of interest in Jean Vardon’s search for a new kidney.
The Gravenhurst woman was one of many attendees at an organ donation event held on the afternoon of Saturday, Nov. 17 at the Frosty Pint Pub. Visitors received information on the organ donor process, had a chance to find out their blood type, and were able to sign up as organ donors on the spot.
Vardon has been living with polycystic kidney disease (PKD) for over 20 years – a condition that causes cysts to form on her kidneys. Her daughter, Cheryl Scribner, and fellow family members organized the event.
The outpouring of support generated by the standing-room only crowd that day was overwhelming for Vardon.
“I don’t know what the outcome is going to be, but I’m very hopeful,” she said. “The turnout is fascinating … I thank them so much for their support.”
Since the summer, the genetic condition has caused the function of both Vardon’s kidneys to drop from 22 per cent to just 15 per cent. If she fails to find a donor soon, the retiree will find herself surviving on dialysis treatments.
Because she’s passed the condition on to three of her children, they are unsuitable as potential donors. Her husband is also unsuitable as he’s had triple bypass surgery.
“Going through the family, it’s not looking too promising,” she said.
However, many of the visitors who signed up as organ donors during the event have offered a glimmer of hope.
One of those willing donors was Jim Lynch, a fellow retiree who signed up to donate his kidneys, corneas, heart, lungs and liver. To his surprise, when he completed the registration process, he found out he had already signed up as a donor a number of years ago.“I just think it’s a great thing to do,” he said of his reasons for signing up.
Scribner personally gathered information and pamphlets for the event from charities like the Canadian Liver Foundation, the Kidney Foundation of Canada and the PKD Foundation of Canada. She said the event also helped raise awareness of the fact that living donor programs are available, where people can donate organs to others while they are still alive.
“Sometimes people think of organ donation as signing a donor card and donating when you’re dead,” she said.
Scribner, who has the condition herself, said living donors can actually end up living longer than non-donors.
“Because of the tests they go through, they have to be really healthy to be a donor,” she said.
PKD Foundation of Canada executive director Jeff Robertson said the condition affects about one in every 500 people worldwide. The condition is more common than Down syndrome, and parents with the dominant form of PKD have a 50 per cent chance of transmitting it to their children.
Robertson’s own mother was affected by the disease, and his parents started the foundation as a way of raising awareness about the condition. Robertson himself is fortunate that he does not have PKD but is encouraged by the fact that the condition is becoming more and more recognized.
“There is no treatment or cure,” he said. “Either dialysis or transplantation are the only ways of prolonging the quality of life.”
One of those transplant recipients is Warren Rowe, who attended the event with his wife Fran to show their support. Like Vardon, Rowe was diagnosed with PKD about 20 years ago, but received a kidney transplant just shortly before Christmas three years ago.
Rowe was on dialysis for six years while waiting for an available kidney, during which time Fran said the number of dialysis machines in the couple’s bedroom made it look “like a hospital.” Activities like swimming were impossible, and travelling was difficult.
“Six years is a long time to worry,” said Fran.
The kidney transplant, however, hasn’t solved all of Rowe’s problems. He now finds himself in need of another organ donor.
“There’s a possibility I’m in end-stage liver failure,” he said.
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