Trotting for transplants at third annual fundraiser
Three years ago, Angela Bird’s daughter Sonny died because she didn’t receive a lung transplant.
Sonny, age 26, had been on the transplant list for lungs for more than a decade.
“She had different antibodies and size was a huge factor. She was tiny,” said Bird.
Sonny had cystic fibrosis, a hereditary genetic disease mainly affecting the digestive system and lungs. She was hospitalized for the last time on Feb. 27, 2014.
“All her other organs were starting to shut down and she didn’t want to be on all those extra machines,” said Bird.
“She’s better now. She’s no longer suffering. I couldn’t handle seeing her suffer, but with her experience, she knew what she wanted. She knew when that was the end. We knew when to pull the plug. It’s something we had discussed in advance and we were quite prepared for it, as devastating as it was.”
A year later in 2015, she heard about the first Transplant Trot being organized in Moose Jaw by the Gadd family to support the Saskatchewan chapter of the Canadian Transplant Association and to raise awareness about the importance of organ and tissue donation. Having known the Gadd family for many years, Bird knew she wanted to participate.
Sunday marked the third year of the annual walk/run in Wakamow Valley and Bird was one of the more than 150 participants.
“The gift of life is something that can’t be expressed as far as I’m concerned,” she said.
“Without the donors and the awareness people die. I lost my daughter because she didn’t receive lungs. So you need this.”
Organizer Kevyn Gadd has experienced the flipside of what transplants can do. He was born with congenital heart disease pulmonary hypertension, affecting his heart and lungs. He had heart surgery at the age of 2 and was taken off medication after surgery.
“It was something that I was used to since I was born, but I couldn’t play any competitive sports. I couldn’t do a lot of physical activity,” said Gadd. “It got to a point where I could walk a block and just be exhausted.”
In 2012, he ended up back on medications. He went with his sister to Edmonton for a doctor’s appointment in 2013. There, doctors felt it was a good idea for a lung transplant, as he was at 33 per cent lung function. Gadd went home on Feb. 8, 2014. Three weeks later, he got the call he’d been waiting for to get the transplant.
Three years later, Gadd remains healthy, now able to walk, run and play floor hockey.
Gadd stayed in Edmonton for three months after the transplant, which is where he heard about, and watched, Edmonton’s Transplant Trot.
“We thought, ‘We could probably do that in Moose Jaw,’ so we started as soon as possible,” said Gadd. “People don’t think about it and it can save lives. I’m proof of that. Because someone signed their card and wanted to be a donor, that’s why I’m here healthy and able to do things like this today.”
Last year the event raised $15,000, however Gadd said the event isn’t as much about the money as it is about awareness.
“People need to have conversations about organ donation. It’s not just about putting that sticker on your health card,” he said. “Even though you’re an organ donor, your family could veto it if they’re not sure that’s what you wanted. So you’ve got to talk to your family about being an organ donor.”
Some of the upwards of 150 participants in the third annual Transplant Trot walk across the bridge in Wakamow Valley on May 28, 2017.
Angela Bird prepares for her walk in the third annual Transplant Trot .