marian reich for transplant ambassador program

Marian Reich

Mackenzie Health Co Lead

My name is Marian Reich and I truly feel like the most ordinary person one could meet. I am one of six children who were raised on a farm in Ontario. I fulfilled my childhood dream and became a swimming instructor/lifeguard at 17, which laid the path to becoming an elementary teacher. After 28 years, I have recently retired and am choosing how to spend my time now. I love hot yoga, travelling and hanging out with friends. I am also a living kidney donor. This story begins in 2008 when I was chatting on the phone with my brother. He told me Susan's kidney disease had worsened and she was on the waiting list for a deceased donation. She was told to find someone who would be willing to give a living organ. Gosh, how is someone supposed to do that? I asked Len what her blood type was and he said A+. I am also A+ and in that moment I knew. I knew it could be me who would undergo an operation to give a part of me so Susan could trade life on dialysis for a richer one. I sat very still after that call, perhaps the most still ever as I asked myself if I could do this. The answer was yes. I traveled to LHSC for the extensive testing to ensure two things: one, I had a great kidney which would be of use to Susan and two; I had no underlying health issues which would compromise my future health. Lots of blood tests, CAT scan, ultra sound, psychological interview and pre-op visit were on the list. Many phone calls to Susan were made to see how we were coping emotionally both with the work-up and the waiting. In January 2010, we checked in at 6 a.m. and by day's end a new kidney was working, by all accounts, very well inside Susan. It took me a couple of years to talk openly about our transplant adventure, but now I want to really spread the word to encourage others to consider living donation. Susan is doing really well and I don't think I have ever been healthier or happier in life. In reflecting back though, I could have benefited in talking with another person who had lived the experience before me. That's why I want to be part of TAP – The Transplant Ambassador Program. I want to have the opportunity to talk to people with CKD in the clinic to let them know that living donation is not so mysterious and that it can make the world of difference in someone's life. Susan and I are the evidence of that.

eileen freedman for transplant ambassador program

Eileen Freedman

Mackenzie Health Co Lead

My name is Eileen Freedman. I am married with 4 children and I work as a pediatrician. I was diagnosed with Polycystic Kidney Disease (PKD) with my last pregnancy. I progressed to renal failure and dialysis within12 years. I began Home Hemodialysis while my family and friends pursued whether they could be donors. I am very fortunate to have a lifelong friend, Tracy Arthurs, who agreed to and completed the process to be my donor. Unfortunately, she was not my blood type and we entered the Living Donor Exchange Programme. We matched with 4 other people 2 years into my home dialysis experience. I have been so lucky and blessed with Tracy, my husband and all of the wonderful people whom I have met during this time. To my utter disappointment, all 4 of my children have been diagnosed with PKD. I want to work within the TAP to help others understand dialysis and transplantation. My hope is that this process will be vastly improved before my children need transplants themselves.

tom mitrovski for transplant ambassador program

Tom Mitrovski

My name is Tom Mitrovski. I am a kidney transplant recipient for 39yrs from a deceased donor. Without my hero family, there would be no me and no miracle story. I am forever grateful for this gift of life. I was able to see my children grow into adults and now I am enjoying my twelve grandchildren. As a young father of three at the age of 22, I was constantly tired. At first, I was blaming this on workload as I was working three jobs to support the family. Illness has no borders. It does not care about your age, your wealth, fame, gender, origin or faith. I was diagnosed with acute renal problems and eventually ended up on dialysis. After three years dialyzing I go the call that a kidney was available. On November 27,1979 I had my transplant. I was emotionally scared and after two months in hospital, I was released to go home to start a new chapter. I started feeling stronger and took my family on a long-awaited vacation to Florida! As time passed on, I felt I had to contribute to support organ donation. I began supporting the Kidney Foundation to explore ways to help find a cure. Today the waiting time is said to be between 7-9yrs, with many dying waiting for an organ. A living donor can make the wait time shorter and, in some cases, people can avoid dialysis completely! That is why I became a Transplant Ambassador. I want to support and inspire. Transplantation is an amazing journey that tests the limits of human strength and courage. It requires commitment, faith as well as emotional and physical endurance. If you can handle kidney disease and transplantation, you can conquer anything! It is one of life’s greatest challenges and the reward is life itself! I love humour, so I named my kidney Gerry.

Brahm Oppen for transplant ambassador program

Brahm Oppen

When I was first diagnosed with Polycystic Kidney disease (PKD) at the age of 24, I knew that one day I was probably going to need a kidney transplant. PKD is a hereditary disease that inherited from my mom. A couple of years later, my mom, in need of a new kidney, received one from a deceased donor. That was almost 20 years ago, in the year 2000. The change it had on her was amazing! She has been able to lead a totally normal life these past 20 years, seeing her four children grow up and bless her with ten grandchildren and travel the world with my dad. When I found out four years ago that I was coming close to needing a transplant, the first person to step up and offer to donate a kidney was my dad. I was so lucky that we were a match! I never had any fears about undergoing a kidney transplant, as I had seen how well my mom had done and the life it gave her back. On September 18th, 2018 (I was 45 years old and my dad was 67 years old), we underwent our surgeries. Of course, my mom, my two teenagers and the rest of my family was there by our sides. My dad was released from the hospital after three days and I went home after six days. We both were able to return to work after 4-6 weeks and back to normal lives. I know that if I hadn't seen my mom go through the process almost 20 years ago, I would have been scared of the unknown. I joined the Transplant Ambassador Program (TAP) to help inform potential recipients and donors about the whole process. I hope my experience can help ease the concerns of potential recipients and donors and hopefully change their lives, like it has done for my family. The photo is of my dad and I. The photo on the left is one day after surgery and the right is one year after.

Joe Harris for transplant ambassador program

Joe Harris

My name is Joe Harris. I inherited Polycystic Kidney Disease (PKD) from my mother who was on dialysis and eventually had a deceased donor transplant. With PKD the chance of a child inheriting it is 50:50, which is the case with my siblings and I. Three of us have PKD and three don’t. The fortunate part of that is, one of my brothers who didn’t have PKD, offered to donate a kidney to me. He began the extensive donor testing but was ruled out due to some minor health issues. When we found out my brother could not donate, my wife, offered to do it. The only problem was we didn’t even know her blood type. When we checked, it turned out we were the same blood type. The testing process started in January 2013. On May 28th, 2013, which was our 25th wedding anniversary, we received an email advising that my wife was cleared to donate her kidney to me. That news was a great anniversary gift. We had “our” transplant in December 2013. I say “our” transplant because my wife, my hero, and I went through this journey together. Having recently retired, I now have the time to share my experiences, both positive and negative with others and being a Transplant Ambassador is a great way to do that.

Nancy Cameron for transplant ambassador program

Nancy Cameron

My son, Scott, was only seventeen years old when he was suddenly diagnosed with IgA nephritis. He was twenty-nine when his kidneys suddenly failed and he was put on dialysis. We had little knowledge about transplantation at the time and were very confused and overwhelmed with the sudden changes that came into effect in our lives. Scott chose to do home hemodialysis for five years before consenting to my open offer to see if I could be his donor. I hoped I wasn’t too old or had some condition where I would be excluded from being a donor.The good news is, that after rigorous testing, I was a perfect match! On January 22, 2014, I was so blessed to be able to donate my kidney to my son. How many moms can say they have given life to their child twice?! I wish I had many more kidneys so I could donate again. The process to me was so easy and I was back to my normal life-style within six weeks. Scott’s life-style changed back to what he was used to pre-dialysis. It is now six years later and both of us are healthy and very happy. I am a TAP Ambassador because I want to share my positive experiences as a donor and to help educate others on the transplant process. I want to offer support and encouragement to as many people as I can, (both donors and recipients), as they attempt to decide whether having a kidney transplant or donating a kidney is definitely the best option for them.

Antoniette Barbaro for transplant ambassador program

Antoniette Barbaro

Antoniette Barbaro is a living donor. Bio coming soon.

Tom Mitrovski

transplant ambassador program

Toronto Kidney Recipient Celebrates 40 Year Anniversary

Tom Mitrovski of Toronto is celebrating 40 years after his kidney transplant. Mitrovski was told he’d survive five to 10 years only. Tom Hayes reports.
Read the full article here. . . .

Meet Transplant Ambassador: Marian Reich

tap event

Watch the video clip here . . .

Meet Transplant Ambassador: Eileen Freedman

tap event

Watch the video clip here . . .