Tom Weinstein for transplant ambassador program

Tom Weinstein

St Joseph's Healthcare Hamilton Lead

Tom worked in education for most of his career – including classroom teaching, adult education, teacher training, ground school for new pilots, the Ontario Ministry of Education and two years in Australia. Tom also volunteers with “Hamilton Out of the Cold”, where he is a Coordinator and is just starting his 15th season with the charity. Tom offered to donate a kidney to the son (Jeffrey) of friends who live in Vancouver. Through the testing, it was discovered that Tom and Jeffrey were not a match and so the paired exchange process began. After a few lengthy delays, everything came together. Tom travelled to Montréal and donated to an anonymous recipient – and by that time, Tom was officially a senior. Today, both Tom and Jeffrey are strong and healthy. Through the TAP program, Tom hopes to share his experiences and to offer help and reassurance to potential donors and recipients.

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!

susan for transplant ambassador program

Susan Cebulak

My name is Susan and I am a living kidney donor! My husband was diagnosed with kidney disease several years ago. We prolonged dialysis through diet and medication but by 2016 this was no longer working, and he began home hemodialysis. Thankfully he had all of the testing needed in advance, so he was immediately added to the transplant waiting list. While we are very fortunate to have dialysis available as a temporary fix for his kidneys, we also felt very restricted because he was hooked up to a machine. His energy levels were declining, and he was not himself. I was becoming discouraged after a year went by and he did not have a new kidney. I decided that instead of feeling disappointed and inwardly complaining, I would put my energy into something more positive like finding out what I could personally do to help get him find a kidney. I contacted St. Joe’s in Hamilton and was very excited to learn that even if our blood type was not a match, the Paired Exchange Program may be an option for us. After about 6 months of extensive testing, a match was found! My husband and I had our surgeries at St. Joe’s Hamilton in Fall of 2018, and I am thrilled to report we are both doing very well! His kidney began functioning immediately, and I have such a feeling of joy knowing he has his freedom back and his energy has returned. As for my recovery, I have not had any concerns or issues and I know that after all of my tests I am a very, very healthy person! It is empowering and an honor to be a part of the solution instead of complaining about the problem and I am forever grateful for the doctors and nurses at St. Joseph’s for the outstanding care we have received throughout this process. It is my personal goal to create awareness and educate others about the transplant experience, so they are able to make informed decisions about their transplant options!

courtney gibson for transplant ambassador program

Courtney Gibson

My name is Courtney Gibson and I am a kidney transplant recipient. When I was 15 (2011) I found out I had chronic kidney disease and a urologist told my parents to get me to The Hospital for Sick Children right away. When I got to emergency I was told that my potassium level was so high they were surprised I had not had a heart attack already (so needless to say I was really scared!) Through that stay of 104 days I had nephrectomy tubes placed in my kidneys, and a surgery to enlarge my bladder. That surgery lasted about 10 hours although it was only supposed to be about 3-5 hours, I almost didn’t recover from that surgery, doctors told my parents to “prepare for the worst.” Thankfully I recovered and was later discharged. The summer of 2012 I got heatstroke, which shot my creatinine way up! When I finally let my parents rush me to emergency, I was delirious and having bizarre hallucinations (I thought the nurse’s station in the ICU was actually a food court). My doctors decided that I needed to be put on dialysis right away. By the time I turned 16 that summer, I had a hemodialysis line in my chest and was put on the transplant list. I had a lovely lady who I barely knew offer to get worked up to give me a kidney and by November of 2012 we were on the final step — the cross match! Unfortunately, there was an issue with our cross match and Toronto General asked us to come back the following week to redo it. However a couple days later on November 23rd my mom got a phone call early in the morning from my nephrologist who said they had a deceased donor for me and to get to Sick Kids right away to do a cross match, I swear I’ve never seen my stepdad drive so fast! By 8am the next morning I was heading to surgery to receive my kidney! I am eternally grateful to my donor and their family! It is truly amazing to me that a complete stranger saved my life! Now I am 23 years old and want to be an ambassador to help others through this process. I wish when I was 15 and going through this scary process, I had someone to talk to about it who understood what I was going through.

Sean Hegarty for transplant ambassador program

Sean Hegarty

Sean is a kidney donor who donated to a family member in November 2013. The family member was on dialysis for approximately 18 months and had been approved as a transplant recipient. Sean and another family member applied as potential donors and went through the donor screening and testing process at the same time. During that time all of their information came through the donor coordinator team, nurses, physicians, social workers etc. Sean and his family member did not have the opportunity to meet or speak with any donors or recipients as this program did not exist at that time. When Sean saw the communication on starting the TAP program, he thought back to when he went through the process and how helpful it would have been to meet or speak with someone who had been through it. Sean volunteered to hopefully help others who are considering or going through the process by sharing that experience with them.

Mike Deluca for transplant ambassador program

Mike Deluca

I was 45 years old having just moved with my wife and two kids to the U.S. for a new job opportunity when my life changed course. Two days after our arrival, I ended up in the emergency room of a strange hospital in a new country. I was advised I was in end stage renal failure and would require dialysis. To say we were shocked would be an understatement. I began PD dialysis and shortly after returned home to Canada. I was on PD for about 2 years and then switched to hemodialysis for another 2 years. Those were long years. I had no energy to continue with normal activities. A short walk to my car to get to work in the morning became an almost impossible task. I wasn’t involved in family life and over time it became more difficult to keep working. I began to take steps to get myself on the transplant list which I saw as my only hope. In the meantime, a co-worker approached me one day to inquire about my well-being. I shared my story and my co-worker told me he would pray for me. I appreciated that small kindness. It may not have even been a week later when my co-worker approached me again. He very directly told me he wanted to give me a kidney. I was taken aback and asked him multiple times if he was sure about that decision. We went through 8 months of testing. We were a successful match. The road to surgery was not without some bumps but on March 28, 2018 I was given another chance at life. I was blessed to receive a kidney that day from someone who believed that we were meant to cross paths and that he was meant to help. My donor and I and our families have become an even bigger and more wonderful family. I asked myself what I could do to show my gratitude and to live a better life with this gift that I had been given. I became aware of TAP and knew I had to be involved, to share my story and to hopefully provide some amount of comfort, hope and support to those facing a similar challenge to my own. I am grateful to St. Joes and to all those who donate and who register to donate. There is no greater gift. I look forward to making someone else’s kidney journey a little bit easier.

Cancer Care Ontario recognizes Hamilton physician with Human Touch Awards

transplant ambassador program

Nine Human Touch awards were presented across Ontario.

Dr. Seychelle Yohanna from St. Joseph Healthcare Hamilton won in the Kidney Care Staff Awards category.
Read the full article here. . . .

Meet Transplant Ambassador: Michelle MacKinnon

tap event

Watch the video clip here . . .