Vernon Jubilee Hospital staff Aides Hofer and Summer Zaino are presented with thanks from double lung recipient Ray Thomson and BC Transplant’s Karly Marsden. (Contributed)

Vernon Jubilee Hospital staff Aides Hofer and Summer Zaino are presented with thanks from double lung recipient Ray Thomson and BC Transplant’s Karly Marsden. (Contributed)

Hospital staff thanked for saving lives in Okanagan

Three local organ transplant recipients show gratitude

A trio of double-organ recipients want all those who helped save their lives know just how grateful they are.

Two double lung transplant recipients Ray Thomson and Judi Mori, and two-time organ beneficiary Fiona Walker took part in BC Transplant’s long-standing Operation Popcorn campaign earlier this month.

The annual event is their chance to personally show gratitude to some of the health-care workers who made it possible for them to be here today.

“It’s one of my favourite privileges of being a double organ recipient,” said Walker, a kidney and pancreas organ donation recipient.

Diagnosed with type one diabetes when she was four, Walker’s kidneys started to fail by 15 and by 19 they shut down. Her double-organ transplant at age 25 was 10 year ago this past summer, a milestone she was once told she would never reach if not for her donor, whose death became her life.

“Your worst day became my next day and I often wonder how your last moments were spent,” she said in a letter to her donor. “I am the same age today as you were when you took your last breath in an ICU bed. The age I never thought I would reach, and the age you probably thought you would surpass.”

While the donors are the true heroes, it takes a team of heroes to make a transplant possible.

Showing appreciation for those who saved their lives at Vernon Jubilee Hospital, the local transplant recipients gifted popcorn to staff.

Health professionals like Aides Hofer, who works in the intensive care unit, and Summer Zaino, in the operating room, often only get to see the tragic side of organ donation. Operation Popcorn is a reminder of the people whose lives have been saved through their work supporting organ donors.

“There are more than 5,600 transplant recipients alive and thriving due to the dedicated efforts of all the caring health professionals across the province who support organ donation,” said Eric Lun, BC Transplant’s executive director.

In this season of giving, British Columbians are encouraged to take two minutes to register as an organ donor at taketwominutes.ca. As a province, we can give hope to more than 620 people and their families waiting for the call that will change their lives.

“Raising awareness towards organ donation ensures many more of us are able to participate in events like these,” Walker said.

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Recipient Ray Thompson and his wife (from left), ICU staff Aides Hofer, OR staff Summer Zaino, recipient Judy Mori, BC Transplant staff Karly Mardsen and recipient Fiona Walker at Vernon Jubilee Hospital. (Contributed)