Operations are something Brian Parsons and Tony Beeftink have in common.
Both men are heart transplant recipients, given the gift of life by organ donors and their families, along with the surgical crews who performed and looked after the men post-surgery.
Both were at Vernon Jubilee Hospital recently for an operation of a giving kind.
The pair were on hand for Operation Popcorn, in which they presented tins of popcorn – a heart healthy snack – to staff in the intensive care unit, emergency department and operating rooms.
Operation Popcorn is a provincewide initiative of B.C. Transplant.
“It’s always important to raise awareness for transplants in general,” said Parsons, 49, a Vernon firefighter and believed to be the only firefighter in North America working full-time after receiving a heart transplant nearly six years ago.
“This is my first time with Operation Popcorn. For me to come in and say my thanks to the people who are on the front lines and help quite a bit. It’s hard to describe the process you go through and knowing that there are people willing and able to give of themselves to make it a little easier is always appreciated.”
Health care professionals see the tragic side of organ doantion as they support families of donors dealing with the loss of a loved one through the donation process.
For Beeftink, a retired Salmon Arm teacher who taught high school in Sicamous for 30 years, this is one of the reasons he takes part in handing out popcorn.
“People at ICU have to do a very difficult thing when they have to ask people in grief if they would donate organs,” said Beeftink, 62.
This is the 25th anniversary of Beeftink’s transplant and he wears a white T-shirt with the date – Dec. 26, 1988 – and a heart to commemorate the event.
“I’ve always said if you could be a recipient you can be an organ donor,” said Beeftink.
“If you’re wondering whether you should be donors and sign the (donor) card, if you can see yourself or a love one receiving a transplant, if you can receive one you can be a donor too.”
For both men, life post-transplant is grand.
Beeftink is into his third year of retirement and he enjoys spending time with his three kids and six grandchildren.
Parsons, who has three daughters, is happy to be working again.
“As you know, firefighting is very stressful but the transplant has allowed me to go back to work full-time and I love what I’m doing,” he said. “It’s also allowed me to watch my kids grow up.”
Between Dec. 2 and Dec. 6, 28 hospitals around B.C. were visited by 107 volunteers, that is, transplant recipients, living donors and donor families, and 97 tins of popcorn were delivered.
This is the 22nd year of Operation Popcorn.