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41. #50YearsofTransplant: Erika Kanczula

Erika started volunteering for her friend Heather who was in need of a lung transplant, and now she continues to volunteer for all of the people that organ donation can help.
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​This picture shows how Erika transports to and from community events with all of her BCT materials in tow. 

Can you tell us what your connection is to transplant?

"About six years ago, my very dear friend (Heather Simpson) found out she had Idiopathic Pulmonary Fibrosis. With this rapidly developing disease, we quickly learned that she would reach a stage sometime in the next five years, which would require her to receive a double lung transplant in order to survive.  

Together, we decided that we needed to get the word out about the importance of organ donation. We contacted BC Transplant to see how we could volunteer to get this information out. We started to provide information and register people's decisions at local events and my friend continued as long as she could with me. Heather started to use the "Live Life & Pass It On" tag line on emails, and I followed suit.

I have carried on because I have seen firsthand the incredible difference it can make. I have met many transplant recipients and donor families along the way. All of the people I met have impressed upon me, their gratitude for their gift of life. It is so special to hear the donor families say how they feel their family member has contributed to the extension of another person's life, and their lives were not in vain."

Can you tell us how this affected you?

"Learning about organ donation and following my friend through each phase has had an immense impact on me. There are very few things you can do in life that leaves a lasting impression. Organ donation is the most selfless thing I believe that a person can do.

My friend had her transplant in November 2017. I am pretty sure she would not be here now if she hadn't received this life-saving surgery. Unfortunately, she developed C.R.E.S.T. and due to complications has never been able to leave the hospital. It is not related to the transplant surgery though."

Why did you decide to volunteer for BC Transplant?

"I volunteered for my friend. Now I volunteer for all of the people that organ donation can help."

What are some of the common myths and misconceptions you hear about organ donation? How would you like to educate people on this?

"The most common misconception that people will say as they walk by is "I am too old", and I am quick to point out that age is not a factor. This initiates a conversation where they will often register or at least begin to consider it as an option. Another misconception is that children can't register. I have a small sign that details the need for parents to register them and for young adults to re-register when they are 19.

I do wonder if there is a possibility of getting into the schools or school curriculums such as science classes, so children learn about it in a benign way where it is not a surprise. This could start a conversation at home initiated by the children."

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

"I had the pleasure of meeting Dr. Yee at Vancouver General Hospital and was actually able to tell him "Thank you", for all he and the team did for my friend. Any chance I get, I thank all of our medical professionals for the work they do. My friend has never come out of hospital as I mentioned earlier so I see the continued support on a regular basis."

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

"We have come so far but there is a long way to go before we will be able to say we are there. Every person, couple and family needs to have this conversation. Even if you haven't signed up, you need to share your wishes with your family members. You could save many lives."

50in50; BC Transplant
SOURCE: 41. #50YearsofTransplant: Erika Kanczula ( )
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