Reserve Mines native donates portion of her liver to a friend.
Reserve Mines native donates 70 per cent of her liver to friend
All Jennifer Bonaparte had to do was hear a friend needed help and she responded. However what her friend needed was 70 per cent of her liver.
“I never had a thought that I wouldn’t do it,” said Bonaparte, 53, formerly of Reserve Mines and now of Ottawa.
“The time it was going to take out of my life compared to the quality of life that it was going to give my friend, there was no question I was going to do it.”
In January 2016, Bonaparte learned her friend of 10 years, Kathy Craig, 64, needed a liver transplant.
The two women had a compatible blood type and it contained a rare component.
Bonaparte said her husband John Barber and her family were concerned about the procedure.
“This was a friend, I needed to know I did what I could,” she said. “It would be a one in a million chance that I’d be a match.”
Craig was put on the transplant list in May and the process began.
She filled out the necessary forms for the screening.
“Hey I’m a Cape Bretoner, the only question I had to think about was, ‘How many drinks do you have a week?’” she added jokingly.
Many questions were healthrelated but there were also financial questions as the donor is off work for some time and has out of pocket expenses.
Bonaparte, a paralegal for the Department of Justice, said she had banked sick time and the Trillium Foundation helps with expenses.
Members of Craig’s family were also to be tested but Bonaparte’s application was in first and only one applicant is screened at a time.
“It’s a one in a million chance you could be a match and I was. Once you are it’s hard not to do it. “
Bonaparte was visiting in Cape Breton when she received a call on July 20 asking if she could be at the Toronto General Hospital the next day. The surgery lasted nine hours. Bonaparte’s gall bladder had to be removed as well as 70 per cent of her liver. It takes upwards of eight weeks for a liver to regenerate.
“Truthfully it wasn’t until I woke up from the surgery that I really believed this actually happened.”
She said the recovery was the hardest part and her husband John and sister Nancy Bonaparte, a physician’s assistant, stayed by her side through it all.
“I felt like I had been hit by a Mac truck.
“After the surgery my sister said, ‘Does it feel weird to know your liver is down the hall?”
Bonaparte was in the hospital for six days and off work for 12 weeks.
She had to go to Toronto five times before the transplant and another three times after the transplant.
Bonaparte said months later she feels great and would help her friend all over again. “To change a life? Absolutely.” Kathy Craig said since the transplant her life has changed as she feels much better and is stronger.
“I can pick up my grandchild now, I can do housework and I can shovel.”
Craig said she had an autoimmune disease where her own body was attacking her liver and causing sclerosis.
She was diagnosed with the disease in 1998 and it was controlled through medication for years. Complications began in 2010.
She said it was quite a sacrifice Bonaparte made for her and she will always be grateful.
“It’s quite difficult to put in words,” she said.
“Jennifer will do anything for anyone, that’s the type of person she is. She’s very special, she changed my life.”
Jennifer Bonaparte, left, formerly of Reserve Mines and now of Ottawa, is seen here with her friend Kathy Craig. Bonaparte donated 70 per cent of her liver to Craig in July and says she wouldn’t think twice of doing it again knowing how it changed her friend’s life.