Organ donor transplant recipients David Fairbrother (left)

Organ donor transplant recipients David Fairbrother (left)

Appreciation shown for life-saving gifts

Three transplant recipients given a second-chance at life are sharing their sincere thanks with Vernon Jubilee Hospital staff

Three transplant recipients given a second-chance at life are sharing their sincere thanks with Vernon Jubilee Hospital staff.

Two life-saving liver transplant recipients and one lung recipient visited the hospital recently as part of Operation Popcorn. The annual tradition sees recipients visit hospitals where a donor has come from, to thank the healthcare professionals who care for organ donors and their families during times of tragedy, with tins of popcorn.

On hand were Salmon Arm’s Steve Naylor, who had a lung transplant in 2013; Kelowna’s Matt Scaife who got a new liver 15 years ago; and Vernon’s David Fairbrother, a two-time liver recipient.

“It gives you a second chance at life, literally,” said Fairbrother, adding that without the two donors he wouldn’t have been around for his granddaughter’s graduation.

While holding back tears, his wife Virginia recalled the transplants, just 46 days apart, which he narrowly survived.

“They called him miracle man,” she said, adding: “We have two donor families to thank.”

Lung recipient Naylor is a new man since his transplant.

“I was pathetic, I was grey, I was dragging my oxygen around,” said the now exuberant man.

He is not a superstitious person, and says now he really isn’t since his transplant which had an often concerning number associated with it.

“I had my transplant on Sept. 13, the year 2013, it was Friday the 13th. I was the 13th lung transplant that year and when I woke up I was in bed 13.”

The popcorn was nice, but seeing these recipients following their successful transplants was the real gift for staff at VJH.

“We don’t get to see them after the transplants and witness the outcomes,” said emergency room nurse Carol Lawson, feeling a little emotional at the event. “It’s so special.”

A number of staff may remember Fairbrother, who spent a considerable amount of time at VJH before his transplant.

“The service I received was great,” he said.

Naylor added: “I’d like to thank you very much for everything you do.”

For all those who deal with the often tragic side of the donation process, Operation Popcorn can provide a happy ending to their hard work.

“The process of providing life-saving transplants from one organ donor can involve as many as 150 health professionals,” said Dr. David Landsbert, medical lead at B.C. Transplant. “Operation Popcorn is a small but very important way for us to say thank you and to give them a chance to see and hear from the people whose lives have been changed through their work in donation.”

And the event added another lucky number to Naylor’s list, after learning that this is Scaife’s 13th year delivering thanks with Operation Popcorn.

“Hey, another 13,” said Naylor.

Operation Popcorn visited 25 hospitals in B.C. and one in the Yukon. To date in 2015, there have been 88 deceased donor cases at hospitals across B.C., providing the gift of life to 365 recipients.

This year also saw 38,522 British Columbians register as organ donors (which can be done at any Service B.C. location).

“As we enter the holiday season, consider registering to be an organ donor, giving the best gift of all,” said Health Minister Terry Lake.