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37. #50YearsofTransplant: Heather Hockley

“As a kidney recipient, I have participated in three Canadian Transplant Games and this year will be my second World Transplant Games. I have seen children and adults of all ages, races and religions benefit from organ donation.”
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Can you tell us what led to you needing a transplant?

"Transplantation is not new to me. My mother passed away in her 40's, waiting for a kidney transplant. My sister received a kidney transplant just eight years before me and she was also in her 40's.  I was previously told that it was not hereditary and all tests showed I had normal kidney function. However, I was finally diagnosed and was still shocked, even with my family history. Within a short time, I was on dialysis and starting the process towards transplant."

Tell us about the day you found out there was a kidney match for you.

"I received the call when I was at work and living in Cranbrook, BC meant that I had to get on the next plane to Vancouver. I had very little time to get everything in order.  I was on the list for approximately three years and even though my blood was being tested monthly, transplant was not on my mind as I was told the wait would be quite a bit longer.

My head was spinning after I received the call. I started crying and called an emergency meeting to explain the situation to my team and secure a replacement. When I got home, my son was in the backyard and I was still crying, not knowing what to tell him.  He tried to calm me down by saying "mom, don't cry because this is a good thing."  The flight to Vancouver was very quiet, as I sat thinking about the family who just lost their loved one.  I cried for them, I cried for their families and I cried for me and my family.  I hoped that this was not a "dry run" and that everything would work out."

How has your quality of life been since receiving the transplant?

"My life changed drastically for the better that day.  I have energy to do things, I am healthy and I have a new outlook on life. I feel and look great. I now have grandchildren, saw my son get married and have experienced travelling the world with my partner."

Have you been in touch with your donor family?

"No I have not, but I want to. I did write letters to the editor of my local newspaper on my first kidney anniversary about how much transplant has saved my life. I found it easier than writing a letter to my donor family as I wasn't sure if they wanted to hear from me soon after their loved one's death. I plan to write to my donor family but I find it hard to put into words. I think about it often and I know I need to do it. I hope that when I do, they will be as thankful to receive my letter as I was to receive a second chance."

What would you like to say to the medical teams that are so vital to the success of transplant in our province and in your own circumstance?

"I am so thankful for everyone involved in making organ donation a reality.  Not just the medical teams, but the clerical staff, the custodians and of course, donors and their families.  In particular, my stay at Vancouver General Hospital was amazing. The team of professionals were simply GREAT as they answered all my questions and took the time to help me on a daily basis. My medical team in Trail, BC continues to look after me on a regular basis to make my transplant a success and guide me in my new life."

Having seen the miracle of transplant so closely, how important is organ donation and discussing one's decisions to donate to family and friends?

"Extremely important! This is why I talk about my transplant whenever I can. I have also been part of peer support for other people in my community who are going through the same thing. Further, I have participated in three Canadian Transplant Games and this year will be my second World Transplant Games. I have seen children and adults of all ages, races and religions benefit from organ donation. 

Sadly, my mom was not as lucky as me, as she passed away before transplant. This was devastating news to me at the age of 13. However, I have the chance now for the both of us, to be a great grandmother, and continue being there for my spouse, my children, grandchildren and my sisters."

What's your perspective on the milestone of 50 years of donation and transplant in BC?

"WOW!  So many lives have been changed and not just those that received an organ donation, but families and extended families, friends and coworkers too. We have just begun making a difference and the more we talk about organ donation, the more lives we can change together." 

50in50; BC Transplant
SOURCE: 37. #50YearsofTransplant: Heather Hockley ( )
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