Operation Popcorn volunteers Brian Parsons, Ray Thompson, Chris Marioni, Jacqueline Marioni, Sid Adams and Bonnie Adams delivered popcorn gifts to staff at the Vernon Jubilee Hospital Wednesday, Dec. 4. (Brendan Shykora - Morning Star)

Vernon firefighter, heart transplant recipient among volunteers delivering thanks

Brian Parsons one of many Operation Popcorn volunteers saying thanks at Vernon hospital Wednesday

Before Brian Parsons received his heart transplant, the Vernon Fire Rescue Services firefighter of 16 years was in a dire state.

“It got to the point where walking up half a flight of stairs was really difficult,” said Parsons, describing the heart condition that had threatened his life. “The heart just wasn’t functioning anymore. It just wasn’t pushing enough blood.”

Parsons received the transplant in 2008 after waiting just 10 days to find a donor. He said the donor’s organs saved not only his life, but the lives of six other people.

This week BC Transplant’s Operation Popcorn is running for the 28th year, and more than 100 volunteers are delivering boxes of popcorn to departments in 26 hospitals across the province. On Wednesday they were at the Vernon Jubilee Hospital giving thanks to the people who make transplants possible.

“Organ donation is one of the most altruistic things that someone can do, and I’m living proof – as are these other people here today,” said Parsons, gesturing to the group of fellow volunteers, many of whom have received organ transplants.

“I think it’s fantastic,” Parsons said of the initiative he’s taken part in for several years. “Awareness is one of the big things. A lot of people don’t think about being donors until people actually try to convince them.”

READ MORE: B.C.’s 500th lung transplant, from Vernon, delivers thanks

READ MORE: Donations sought to help Vernon kids afford Christmas

Being a firefighter is not easy work, but Parsons’ heart is up to the challenge.

“In the summer if we’re at a car accident and we’re wearing our full turnout gear, it’s akin to wearing a snowmobile suit. So if it’s 40 degrees out it’s extremely strenuous with the heat,” said Parsons. “It’s extremely physically demanding. That’s why the tests are so rigorous to become a firefighter.”

As a firefighter who’s been cleared for full duties since one year after his heart transplant surgery, Parsons is a shining example of what someone can accomplish after receiving a life-sustaining organ.

BC Transplant is celebrating a milestone this year: 5,000 people are alive in the province today because of organ transplants.

One of those people is Ray Thompson a double-lung recipient and the Team Captain for Operation Popcorn’s visit to the Vernon Jubilee Hospital on Wednesday.

“It’s a legacy that the owner puts on after they’re gone,” said Thompson. “It’s giving life where life is basically going to be over.”

Becoming a registered donor is open to anyone; there are no restrictions on age, sexual orientation, previous or current medical conditions or where a person has previously lived, according to the BC Transplant website.

As Thompson thinks of it, being an organ donor is a way to live beyond your lifespan.

“I am actually two people now, I’m my donor and myself,” he said. “I’m continually living on for the donor who gave me my set of lungs to keep me going.”

Ed Ferre, provincial executive director of BC Transplant, gave thanks to staff in operating rooms, emergency rooms, ambulatory care and intensive care units in late November, ahead of Project Popcorn.

“Many of these health care professionals often only get to see the tragic side of organ donation as they support families of donors through the donation process. Operation Popcorn allows them to meet the people whose lives have been saved through organ donation and see the lived impact of their hard work and dedication,” said Ferre.

“Thank you to the dedicated team in your hospital for their ongoing support and commitment to organ donation.”

To see if you’re on the organ donation list or to register, visit BCTransplant.ca.

Brendan Shykora
Reporter, Vernon Morning Star
Email me at Brendan.Shykora@vernonmorningstar.com
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