Sitting in a Lower Mainland hospital, Marilyn Byfield had less than two weeks left to live before she received her new liver.
Now, more than five years later and in honour of donor families and health care professionals, Byfield, joined by three fellow Okanagan transplant recipients, visited Vernon Jubilee Hospital Wednesday, Dec. 5 with three festive boxes in tow. Delegates from the operating room, intensive care unit and emergency room were on hand to receive these offerings as part of BC Transplant’s Operation Popcorn.
“I believe in giving back. Some families gave their love one’s organ to me, and I’m alive today because of that gift,” said Byfield, team captain for the Okanagan Operation Popcorn effort. “I was within 10 days of dying before getting mine.”
However, Operation Popcorn goes beyond honouring just the donors and their families, Byfield said. Health care professionals in the OR, ER and ICU are on the front lines of assisting transplant recipients both before and after operation.
For the three months prior to receiving her new liver, Byfield said she was too sick to undergo surgery. Nurses were on hand to improve her health until such a time that she was operable.
“Nurses, they’re the ones that really look after us and care for us,” Byfield said.
Byfield, now celebrating the fifth “birthday” of her new liver, was joined by Matt Scaife, who received his new liver in April 2000; Larry Zutz, also with a new liver in June 2015 and Lloyd Croaker, the recipient of two new lungs in November 2016.
Referring to each other affectionately as livers and lungs, the quartet stopped by Kelowna General Hospital Wednesday morning and will be in Penticton Friday, Dec. 7.
While BC Transplant’s initiative marks celebration, Byfield said that more donors are needed. As of Nov. 2, 424 transplants were performed. There are still 685 people waiting for organ transplants in British Columbia today. In 2017, 479 transplants were performed utilizing organs from 167 donors.
“Our job is talking to and signing up people to become an organ donor,” Byfield said. “A lot of people don’t know what it means.”
Byfield said despite the number of people who support organ transplants, there aren’t enough donors in British Columbia. Although one body can donate up to eight organs according to BC Transplant, there are multiple variables that inhibit organ availability and a proper match.
“The chances of you needing (an organ) are greater than the chances you would give.”