After losing her mother, Kristy Delgrosso read the quote, "You taught me everything I know in life, except how to get through it without you," and thought she couldn't agree more.
But through the difficult journey, Delgrosso ultimately found a silver lining that has helped her find peace.
Her mother, Vicki, had cystic fibrosis and her team at St. Paul's Hospital referred her as a possible double-lung transplant recipient in 2012.
"Our first meeting with the transplant team was really a turning point for my mom," Delgrosso explains. "She was struggling with multiple infections and had just had a small piece of her lung removed when we met Dr. Yee and his team."
Delgrosso recalls that the initial meeting filled her mom with hope and gave her the strength to carry on.
Ultimately, she was deemed "too healthy" for a transplant at the time but continued with regular check-ins and tests for five years.
"My mom was not dealt an easy hand in life. She was diagnosed with cystic fibrosis quite late in life at 33, just after she had me," Delgrosso explains. "When I was six, my dad had a massive heart attack, and my mom was left to be single parent. Having children myself now, I can't even imagine…"
Delgrosso describes her mom as somebody who always gave 100 per cent every day and, despite everything, always saw the glass half full.
"She was the type of mom who went all out for holidays, always had cookies on the table when I got home from school and called me every single day to just check in," the proud daughter recalls. "She had the loudest laugh and the best sense of humour."
Vicki got sick in April 2017 and within three days she was placed on an extracorporeal life support machine in hopes that donated lungs for transplant would become available soon.
"Just two weeks later, the transplant doctors told us that her body was too weak and she was no longer a candidate for a transplant," Delgrosso remembers.
That was when she discovered her mom was not signed up as an organ donor.
"I knew if there was any chance that her organs could save someone, she'd have done it in a heartbeat," Delgrosso says. "They said they would contact BC Transplant to have someone come and test my mom to see if there was anything we could do."
The following morning, Vicky's family got the news that her kidneys and corneas were both able to be donated. This gave Delgrosso and her family the unique experience of being on both sides of the transplant process.
"I can tell you that when you are hoping more than anything in the world that your loved one gets the organs they need, you don't really focus on how they're getting those organs and what another family has had to go through for them to get it," she says.
Wanting to bring awareness to the cause after her mother passed, Delgrosso set off to deal with her grief while signing up new donors to BC Transplant.
She was shocked to learn just how many people hadn't thought to register as an organ donor and has since worked hard helping people understand how life-changing the donation gesture can be.
"Transplant is a gift, no matter which side of it you're on," Delgrosso notes.
While her mom may not have received a transplant, knowing it was a possibility made her fight; allowing her to walk down the aisle on Delgrosso's wedding day and see the birth of her first child – something that she never thought she'd be around to see.
Delgrosso sums up the experience: "Losing a loved one is hard, and I get to tell my daughters that because of their grandma, two people are alive. I'm so proud of my mom and I hope her story motivates someone to sign up to be an organ donor."
Written by: Ryan Uytdewilligen, BC Transplant Volunteer