Tony Duke and his wife Beth Campbell Duke wait for news of a donor.Tony needs a double lung transplant.

Waiting for a gift from a stranger

Comox Valley man an organ donation away from being able to breathe normally

  • Apr. 6, 2016 12:00 p.m.

Terry Farrell

Record staff

Tony Duke sits, and waits. He has no choice.

With only 13 per cent of his lung functionality remaining, he can do little else.

Tony is one of the more than 500 British Columbians on the transplant list. The Buckley Bay resident needs a double lung transplant.

He was first diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis nearly 25 years ago. It manifested into chronic obstructive pulmonary disease roughly 10 years later.

“It began to have a serious effect … about 15 years ago,” Tony said, pausing to grasp more air halfway through the sentence.

“Up until then… It was just my lifestyle … getting old.”

Now he just wants to have a chance to get old. Tony is 60. Without a transplant, he has perhaps 18 months to live – that is, as long as no other complications develop.

“Bronchitis, if I were to catch it, would be extremely deadly … as would pneumonia,” he said, again, over a couple of breaths.

“After six months of assessment, Tony was actively listed at the beginning of February. And now we wait,” said Tony’s wife, Beth Campbell Duke. “Aside from his lungs, he is perfectly healthy.”

“I just want to get on with the last 30 years of my life,” said Tony, coughing and wheezing.

April Is Organ Donor Awareness Month

The  Comox Valley has its share of potential recipients who are waiting to receive their phone call. Roughly 10 per cent of the people on the transplant wait list live on Vancouver Island.

And there are plenty of success stories here as well – many of which have been documented in the Comox Valley Record.

There are currently more than 4,000 people alive today in B.C., thanks to transplants – 700 of them on Vancouver Island alone.

But the wait list continues to grow, at a higher rate than the registered donor list.

As BC Transplant continues to have record-breaking years with organ transplants, the need for organ donors increases.

“It really is amazing how much organ transplantation is growing in B.C., across Canada and world-wide,” said Beth. “There are a few ways that the number of donated organs can increase and the one that each and every one of us has control over is to make sure that we’ve registered our decision with BC Transplant.”

The statistics are puzzling. Currently in B.C., more than 95 per cent of people agree with organ donation, yet less than 30 per cent have registered their decision.

“We just found out that you are five to six times more likely to need a transplant than to ever be a donor, even if you register,” said Beth.

April is Organ Donor Awareness Month. Campaigns are going on throughout the province to increase awareness and, ultimately, increase organ registration.

Help Tony and Beth

While Tony waits for his life-saving phone call, Beth is busy fundraising for what she knows will be an expensive process; one which will require her to be in Vancouver with Tony for a minimum of three months, post-transplant.

“He needs to be in the hospital twice weekly, 7:30 in the morning for blood tests, and then other days, for physio,” said Beth. “Your medical expenses are covered, but your non-medical expenses are not, and those can be crippling.

“Every transplant recipient has to have a support person sign a form saying they understand they have to be there throughout the (recovery) process in Vancouver. We are actually the fortunate among the unfortunate, because we can stay here (in Buckley Bay), right until the transplant. There are people who live father away … who would have to move (to Vancouver). The government provides $600 per month, for rent, but we know what that gets you in Vancouver.”

You can help #EliminateTheWait and support Tony Duke’s lung transplant at his Organ Donor Registration and Bottle Drive event on April 23 from 9 a.m. – 3 p.m. at the Courtenay Recycle-It Depot on Puntledge Road.

If you can’t make the event, you can donate to account #399 and find organ donor registry links on their website TransplantRogues.com

Recipient gives back

Amanda Poch has the best-ever reason for being an organ donation advocate. She was a recipient 10 years ago.

Poch had been battling an autoimmune condition that was destroying her liver. She was rushed to hospital March 18, 2006, extremely ill.

Eleven days after being admitted to hospital, Poch was near death.

The only reason she is alive to tell the story today is because someone had registered as an organ donor.

It was estimated she had less than eight hours left to live, when a donor came through for her.

“I said to my fiancée ‘I’m thinking for my 10-year (anniversary) I may want to do something big’ and mentioned the tour to her and she thought it was a good idea. I kind of thought it would be a small, humble event, but it’s turned out to be quite a bit more than I expected it to (be), with the partnership of the Kidney Foundation of Canada.”

Poch started the Live Then Give tour (liventhengive.ca); a province-wide organ donor awareness tour. Her goal is to get 10,000 new donor registrants this year.

“I will have all the forms available for people to register, right there, or they can take the forms home. I also have all the information if they want to sign up online as well. All that can be done at my caravan, which will be at various locations throughout the province.”

Poch had her tour on the south part of the Island last month and will be bringing her  Live Then Give caravan to the north Island during the summer months.

“It will be sometime in June. My dates are still being worked on.”

Poch said there are a few misconceptions about organ donation, which is one reason for her tour – to clarify some of the bad information out there.

“Some of the biggest objections I get are, ‘I’m too old; you don’t want my organs anyways, because they are too used,” said Poch. “Well, my donor was 72 years old. I received it at the age of 26. I am fine. So that is a huge point to get across. And the oldest donor on record is 93 years old.

“I also hear ‘I have this wrong with me,’ or ‘I’m sick,’ or ‘I can’t give blood.’ Well the process of giving blood is much different than giving organs. Your organs are assessed at the time (of donation). You may not be able to donate all your organs, but you still have the opportunity to give some.”

The online process for donor registration takes approximately four minutes. The only form of ID needed is your BC Personal Health (CareCard) number. Go to register.transplant.bc.ca to complete your registration today.

 

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