Darryl Gagnon wants nothing more than to live to meet his future grandkids, and he’s hoping there’s a hero somewhere out there who’s willing to help make it happen.
The Semiahmoo Secondary alum, now 48, was put on a transplant list “a couple weeks” ago, about two years after learning – by sheer chance – that his kidneys were failing.
The news came after Gagnon’s “fourth new doctor in five years” sent him for blood tests as part of a routine checkup. The lab work was something that, for no particular reason beyond the shifting physician coverage, hadn’t been requisitioned for some time, he said.
While the father of four had no reason to suspect anything was amiss – no symptoms whatsoever, in fact – the results showed his kidneys’ filtration levels were “dangerously low.”
“It was already quite reduced by the time I found out,” Gagnon said Friday (April 29). “It would have been nice to learn this years ago and maybe I could’ve cut the salt out and drank more water a long time ago.
“I’m not sure how it slipped through the cracks.”
Last week, following word a live donor was his best chance at a long life, Gagnon’s wife Amy posted an appeal on Facebook, describing her husband as someone who “lives for his kids.”
The stay-at-home dad spends months every year planning a game-show themed Christmas morning just to see their eyes light up, and is similarly dedicated to making annual camping trips an experience to remember, recently organizing a Big Brother-style adventure.
He “needs a longer life to watch his kids graduate high school, get married, and have what he can’t wait for…,” the Facebook post states.
“We can’t live without him,” Amy told Peace Arch News. “He just wants to see his kids grow up.”
According to the Kidney Foundation, kidneys are the most common living-organ donation and, the procedure is the most successful of all transplants. This is partly due to the increased time the process allows for tissue-matching, which reduces the risk of organ rejection.
On average, a kidney from a deceased donor lasts 10 to 15 years, while one from a living donor lasts 15 to 20 years, the site adds.
“Knowing that most of my grandkids are coming 10, 15 years from now, (six months to six years on dialysis is) about the most that I have if I don’t get this,” Gagnon said.
The Gagnons’ kids range in age from 12 to 24 years. The family has called Cloverdale home for 18 years, but Gagnon’s ties to the Semiahmoo Peninsula – where he still has family and friends – remain strong.
While he and Amy will mark 25 years married later this year, they learned while dating that he had first made her laugh long before that, when she was in Grade 9 at Lord Tweedsmuir Secondary and attended an improv show he’d hosted at Semi.
“For years, my brother and I talked about this funny guy who was at the show,” Amy said. “And then when Darryl and I were dating, he said, ‘that was me.’
“He was such a standout, the funniest guy there.”
A knack for comedy landed Gagnon on Montreal’s Just for Laughs stage for a year, and he said he was offered a mini tour of the West Coast when he was in his early 20s. But he knew what he really wanted was a family.
“That’s always been my priority,” he said.
A registered organ donor himself, Gagnon said he realizes handing over an organ is no small ask, and it’s a question he’s not specifically put to family members, feeling that “if they want to donate, they will.”
Amy said she “sat with it for awhile” before making the Facebook post.
“How do you go about asking someone for that? It’s so hard and so difficult,” she said.
Many pledged to share the post and at least one commenter has said they have the same Type O blood as Gagnon, and have reached to the hospital about donating. Another said they didn’t know their blood type, “but I am going to find out and pray that I can help you my friend.”
Gagnon said he has been touched by the response.
“It was nice to know that the few people I’ve let into my life definitely think it’s worth sharing,” he said. “Nice to see that I’m loved.”
Not everyone can qualify as a donor, however, and the process of determining if someone is a match is rigorous. Just 17 per cent of those who put their names in the hat qualify, Gagnon said.
The process is also anonymous, with recipients only informed of a match when it’s “go time.”
All living donation is managed through Vancouver General Hospital and St. Paul’s Hospital Pre-Assessment Transplant Clinics.
Anyone wishing to explore being a living donor for Gagnon may email email@example.com, quoting registration number 24342.
Gagnon quipped that if he does find a match, and that individual identifies him or herself to him, they can expect huge thank yous in the years to come.
“I’ll be constantly sending them updates of me holding grandchildren, me going on vacation… they’d definitely be my hero,” he said.
“They’d be on my mind everyday, for the rest of my life.”
In the meantime, he said he’s made it his mission to encourage others to get their kidney function tested regularly.
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