A do­na­tion like no other

Or­gan trans­plant re­cip­i­ents share their life-chang­ing sto­ries

The Compass - - OPINION - BY DANETTE DOO­LEY SPE­CIAL TO TC ME­DIA

Corey Win­ter has tried, on sev­eral oc­ca­sions, to write a let­ter to the fam­ily of a man whose death al­lowed him to live. But how do you find words to thank those who have given you the op­por­tu­nity to watch your young boys start school, throw a ball, shoot a puck?

Al­though his heart trans­plant took place over four years ago, Win­ter hasn’t yet found the right words to put on pa­per. Do­ing so will take time, he says. And, thanks to this gen­er­ous fam­ily, Win­ter has plenty of time to find the words that keep elud­ing him.

“I know he was my age and that he died of a brain aneurysm. And I have a big re­gret that I haven’t contacted his fam­ily yet. I’ve tried many times and I’m sure I’ll get it out one of th­ese days.”

Any con­tact would be made through the trans­plant or­ga­ni­za­tion in On­tario to pro­tect the pri­vacy and iden­tity of both the donor fam­ily and the re­cip­i­ent.

Car­diac ar­rest

Win­ter is orig­i­nally from the Town of Cen­tre­ville-Ware­ham-Trin­ity. He now lives in Gan­der with his wife Chris­tine and their sons. Travis is 13. Phillip is eight.

Win­ter suf­fered from a rare ge­netic dis­ease called ar­rhyth­mo­genic right ven­tric­u­lar car­diomy­opa­thy, more com­monly known as ARVC.

The dis­ease, which dam­ages the heart mus­cle and re­places the mus­cle with fatty tis­sue, can cause early death. That’s happened to some of his rel­a­tives, Win­ter said, and his cousin re­cently un­der­went a heart trans­plant in Hal­i­fax.

“My cousin’s brother was the first one to die of ARVC and I was the first one to live through it,” the 40-year-old says.

Win­ter went into car­diac ar­rest for the first time in Fe­bru­ary 2000. An in­ter­nal de­fib­ril­la­tor im­planted into his shoul­der the pre­vi­ous year by car­di­ol­o­gist Dr. Sean Con­nors sent out an elec­tri­cal im­pulse and restarted his heart.

“It would have been too late for me if I didn’t have the de­fib­ril­la­tor.”

The de­fib­ril­la­tor saved Win­ter’s life sev­eral times over the years. How­ever, his health con­tin­ued to de­te­ri­o­rate.

In 2006, Win­ter un­der­went surgery at the Heart In­sti­tute in Ot­tawa, where doc­tors used a

When I was born I had a dis­ease called Bi­lary hy­popla­sia and it was very bad. The doc­tors said it would never get bet­ter.

When I was 8 years old they said I had to have a liver trans­plant but there wasn’t any one in my fam­ily a match for me.

One day a very nice lady named Chris­tine heard about me and when she knew I needed a donor she said she would give me part of her liver.

We went to Toronto, I was in the hos­pi­tal for Sick Chil­dren and Chris­tine was in an­other hos­pi­tal across the street and the doc­tors did the trans­plant.

Now I am well and my new liver is work­ing per­fect, Chris­tine gave me back my life and that is why she is my HERO.

– Ju­lia An­stey laser to burn off scar tis­sue from his heart.

He spent the fall of 2007 in hos­pi­tal — both in St. John’s and in Toronto Gen­eral Hos­pi­tal.

“Things went down­hill re­ally quick. I was re­ally sick. I was in the In­ten­sive Care Unit. That’s where I spent Christ­mas.”

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