“It started with a cup of sugar being borrowed and turned into an organ,” said organ-donor Erica Tomlinson, organizer for the Transplant Trot, a charity event to raise organ and tissue donor awareness at Hiawatha Highlands Conservation Area on Sunday.
A few years ago when she was living in Milton, ON, Tomlinson’s neighbor Renee Ly was diagnosed with primary sclerosing cholangitis, a rare disease that affects the liver’s bile ducts.
Tomlinson had only known her neighbor for two years, they first met when Ly borrowed a cup of sugar, and, even though they weren’t family or even best friends, she saw an opportunity to help and took it.
“It was just one of those things that I thought if I could do it, then why wouldn’t I?" she said.
On 20 November 2013 Tomlinson donated her liver's larger left lobe, about 70 percent of her total liver.
She recovered rather quickly and now her right lobe has grown into one larger fully-functioning liver.
She said her health is great.
She can still drink, she can still have children, and she has the added bonus of a “beautiful scar” that she likes to “show off”.
She did say that she noticed an effect on how much alcohol she can drink now.
She went from being able to handle four or five drinks to just one or two, but that didn’t stop her and her fiancé from going to the Festival of Beer after the Transplant Trot on Saturday.
“I’m just a cheap drunk now,” she said.
Last year Tomlinson moved to Sault Ste. Marie because her husband wanted to raise children here and she opened up a The Pastry Shoppe on Second Line West.
At Saturday’s Transplant Trot, 30 runners, many of them organ donors or recipients, came out to walk or run a 5km course that started and ended at the Sugar Shack.
Amongst those who participated was organ recipient Reg Beaudette, who, last February, received a lung after a long and stressful battle with pulmonary fibrosis.
Beaudette said that for his organ transplant he had to be within in two hours of a hospital that could treat him so that he was immediately available when a donor passed away.
Beaudette and his wife Cathy had to rent a condo at College and Bay next to their hospital in downtown Toronto for two years.
They received $650 monthly from the Ontario Trillium Foundation to relocate but they said it covered only a fraction of their rent and they are concerned for others who aren’t as lucky as them to be able to scrape up the relocation expenses.
“(Even with the Trillium Foundation) there’s lot of people that can’t afford to go to Toronto so they just have to stay home and die,” said Beaudette.
Saturday’s Transplant Trot raised $535 and helped spread more information about organ donation to the public.
Tomlinson promoted the fact that living donors can donate their kidney or liver while deceased donors can donate their hearts, lungs, spleens, colon, skin, eyes, and more as well.
One organ donor can save up to eight lives with their body.
Tomlinson said that many people are under the misconception that they are registered to donate their organs through their driver’s license but that recent changes mean that they may no longer be.
She said those who want to register as donors should go to Service Ontario or visit beadonor.ca