michelle mackinnon for transplant ambassador program

Michelle Mackinnon

Michelle MacKinnon is a retired Montessori Teacher and a Fourth Degree Black Belt in the Olympic sport of Taekwondo. She is married to her husband Dave and is the mother of two sons, David and Andrew. Michelle is the Founder and current President of The David Gregory MacKinnon Memorial Foundation, a registered charity supporting renal patients, organ donation, families of medically fragile children and higher education. Michelle created this foundation in 2011 after the tragic death of her 18 year old son, David who died on the day she was to give him her kidney. Michelle's opportunity to give her son a second chance at life was lost but she vowed that day to donate her kidney to someone else in need. In March of 2015 when Michelle came across a Facebook post from another mother who was experiencing the kidney failure of her own son, Michelle couldn't let her healthy kidney stay with her anymore; she had to give it to this boy that she had never met. Michelle reached out to the mother and the hospital and the transplant testing process began again. The testing done for her own son, David would speed up the process and in just 6 weeks from initial contact Michelle donated the kidney meant to save David to another mother's precious two year old boy. He is now four and thriving. The thought of other living transplant recipients and donors sharing their stories through the Transplant Ambassador Program thrills Michelle. “Living Donors can save lives. When we share our stories we create awareness and spread education which allows Renal Patients and their families and loved ones to make educated decisions regarding their transplant options".

brian cooke for transplant ambassador program

Brian Cooke

Brian is a retired Police Officer with the Hamilton Police Service. He presently working part time in the Funeral Service as Funeral Director Assistant, driving the Coach (Hurst) and Limo and helping in whatever other capacity needed in a Funeral Service. Brian presently volunteers at his church as a Stephen Ministry Leader which provides one to one care to people experiencing grief, divorce, loneliness, job loss, hospitalization, and many other life difficulties. He is also volunteering in the TAP program. Brian is married to his wife Judy of 43 years and have one daughter, Michelle. Michelle and her husband David have two children, who are 9 years, and 13 years old. Their lives are around their grandchildren who are very active in sports. In December of 2015 Brian’s niece, Allison approached him about being a kidney donor for her. Allison had been on the transplant list for approximately 2 years and was still unable to locate a match. Allison's health was failing as both kidneys were shutting down. Allison had diabetes since the age of 3 years. She had learned that older people in good health condition could also be eligible as donors. Being 64 years old and talking this over with his wife and daughter and prayerful consideration, Brian felt the need to move forward with this testing. After a year of intensive testing, Brian was physically capable to handle the procedure to be able to give this gift of life to his niece. Brian also learned how he was such a perfect match and doctors were amazed to how close a match he was. Brian was so at peace how God's hand, this amazing team of doctors may it all possible, that he was able to do this transplant for my niece to change her life. On December 21st, 2016, the surgery took place, and all went well for both Brian and his niece. On December 23rd he was able to be released from the hospital and start his recovery at home. Allison was doing so well with the new kidney, the doctors released her from the hospital on Christmas Day. That year was certainly a Christmas miracle. It should also be noted that in January 2018 Allison received a pancreas, and she now no longer has diabetes. Allison is 42 years old living a full and active life now. It should also be noted Brian’s recovery went well. He also continues to live a normal active life with no complications with only one kidney. Brian feels being a living donor can save lives and being able to tell his story will give hope to others.

willie and nettie for transplant ambassador program

Willie & Nettie Van Dyk

When Willie was around the age of 35(1996) he was diagnosed with Polycystic Kidney Disease(PKD). PKD is an inherited disorder in which clusters of cysts develop within your kidneys, causing your kidneys to enlarge and lose function over time. Being that he was diagnosed while he was still in early stage, it didn’t really affect his day to day living. It wasn’t until about 7-10 years later that he started to develop high blood pressure that needed medication to control. As years went on, Willie & his wife, Nettie, were still able to travel and enjoy their outings with their three children, and then later as two of their children got married, the grandkids. As Willie’s kidney function started to decline more and more, fatigue started to set in. Willie’s grandkids were quite young at the time and really didn’t understand why their grandpa couldn’t play the outdoor games with them anymore, like he used to be able to. In August 2015, it was decided to put a fistula in Willie’s arm, knowing that he would need dialysis before he could have a kidney transplant. In July 2016 Willie had to quit his job. A day later he was on dialysis. After a month into dialysis, and strong enough for surgery, Willie had a nephrectomy to remove his right kidney to make room for his transplant. By this time his kidneys had grown to be quite large, with both being around 34cm in diameter, each with a combined weight of about 18kgs. By this time, Willie already had a list of about six potential donors. His brother was the first to start the testing, but soon into the testing they found he was not a good candidate. The next donor to be tested was his wife, Nettie. As her testing went on, things looked good, and then they got the word that she was a perfect match for Willie! The transplant was scheduled for December 8, 2016. Willie & Nettie only had one more test to go which was the last cross match, two weeks before the transplant date. The cross-match test went as scheduled. Soon after, the heart-breaking news came that Nettie no longer could be his donor, as his anti-bodies became a problem. But all her testing still payed off, and she decided to go into the paired exchange program, so Willie would still be able to receive a kidney. Willie had his kidney transplant on February 1, 2017. Here they are, two years later and all is going well. They just came back from a four-week trip to Australia to visit with their daughter, her husband and their five kids. They found out recently that their daughter in Australia is now living with PKD, but thankfully, their other two children so far do not have PKD. Willie has five siblings, three brothers, two sisters. His two sisters also live with PKD, passed down from their father who never had any complications from PKD. Now Nettie and Willie, with their experiences as donor and recipient like to share their positive stories and promote kidney transplant at St. Joes hospital in Hamilton, through TAP!

jarrett for transplant ambassador program

Jarrett Jivan

My kidney journey began when I was unexpectedly diagnosed with end-stage renal failure on my 43rd birthday (Apr 2016). Throughout my life, I have always been active, participating in a variety of organized sports, hiking, camping and traveling abroad. And I was an avid runner – charity runs, half marathons, Around the Bay and even a marathon in 2013. One morning at the end of March 2016, I just didn’t have the energy to complete my morning run. On April 1st (April Fool’s Day), I was told by my family doctor that she thought my kidneys were failing and 2 weeks later on my birthday I was officially diagnosed with Kidney Failure. Not the Birthday Present Anyone Wants! I was on peritoneal dialysis by July 2016 and for the next 16 months, dialysis was self-administered at home nightly with assistance from my wife, Lori, and our young daughter, Danica. I transitioned to hemodialysis in October 2017 at the King Street Dialysis Centre until I received the best GIFT of all – a SUPER kidney from my childhood friend! Chris & I have been friends since we were 10 years old growing up in Winnipeg, moving to different cities to pursue our careers and sharing in many of life’s milestones including annual boys trips, marriages and losses in life. Chris and his wife Alex paused their busy lives for 3 weeks and flew in from their home in Calgary to donate his kidney to me on January 24, 2018. Thanks to Chris and his GIFT, I immediately felt better after the transplant and have continued to receive excellent care from St. Joseph's Healthcare Hamilton protecting THE GIFT! The Transplant Ambassador Program is a personal way to share much of the guidance and advice I’ve received over the last 3 years from the Staff & Volunteers at St. Joseph’s Hamilton Healthcare. I am certainly fortunate to have received an amazing GIFT, one for which I can never fully repay. However, I can try to pay it forward, by offering my time to aid fellow kidney patients and their families through their own kidney journey by listening, answering questions, sharing my own experiences and the kidney-related resources available through TAP and St. Joseph’s Hamilton Healthcare. I look forward to doing whatever I can to improve someone else's kidney journey & experience – please feel free to reach out if you see me!