SUNNYBROOK HEALTH SCIENCES TORONTO TAP AMBASSADORS

france laflamme for transplant ambassador program

France Laflamme

France Laflamme remembers the heartache of watching her younger brother’s health decline. Claude was extremely fatigued, a common symptom of kidney disease. His diagnosis wasn’t a surprise. Kidney disease runs in their family, touching their grandmother, father and other sibling. After testing, France learned she was a match to donate a kidney to Claude. “There’s that moment, when you’re faced with the decision, and it’s huge,” says France. “My husband reminded me that I always tell people to live in the moment and think of who is in need.” France donated a kidney to Claude in 2014. Watching his energy levels return so quickly was rewarding, and feeling privileged and healthy, she knew she had to give something back. She became a transplant ambassador at Sunnybrook, volunteering in the hospital’s renal program by speaking with patients and families at every stage of their health journey. “There’s nothing like connecting with someone who understands what you’re going through,” says France. “To raise awareness and educate patients and families is so impactful. It brings me joy to be able to support them.” She explains that ambassadors aren’t part of the medical team but can provide personal perspective and answer questions about what it’s like being a donor or recipient. France says she often has conversations about returning to daily activities and recovering following a transplant. France’s prevalent family history of kidney disease also makes her story compelling. “I always call our journey a family affair,” says France with a laugh. “In my time as an ambassador at Sunnybrook, I feel I’ve formed a new family with the kidney care team and the many patients and families I’ve met along the way.”. france@transplantambassadors.ca

barb steinberg for transplant ambassador program

Barb Steinberg

My journey began at age 6 with my first kidney surgery. I was then stable for many years, gave birth to three healthy, fabulous children, travelled, skied, cycled, worked full-time in a private practice, exercised, etc. and enjoyed a normal, active lifestyle. By early 2000, my lab tests indicated progressive kidney failure. More tests, more meds, a special diet.....leading to a transplant in 2005. I'm one of the lucky ones. My two brothers, along with my dear friend Peter Seligman, came forward as potential donors. Peter won the lottery and wanted the surgery before he left on a ski trip. Fortunately for me, I would have been on dialysis had my surgery happened a day or two later. Do I believe in transplants? Do I believe in donors? Do I believe in living donor transplantation? You bet I do!!! barb.steinberg@transplantambassadors.ca

peter seligman for transplant ambassador program

Peter Seligman

Peter was a living donor to Barb Steinberg. Bio coming soon. peter.seligman@transplantambassadors.ca

sandy feilchenfeld for transplant ambassador program

Sandy Feilchenfeld

My kidney transplant story begins with my husband. After being a diabetic for over thirty years, his kidneys were beginning to fail. His nephrologist told him that within a year or so he would need to go on dialysis, unless he could find a donor. I asked if I could donate. Over the next few months, we both went through a series of tests. Luckily, I was a perfect match. So on a beautiful day in July, five years ago, I donated my kidney. It began to work right away and he felt great! Within a few weeks, we were both taking longer and longer walks. Since that time, we have enjoyed each other, many trips and spending lots of time with our six grandchildren. sandyf@transplantambassadors.ca

Christine Pisapia for transplant ambassador program

Christine Pisapia

My name is Christine Pisapia. My story as a kidney donor started 30 years ago when my brother Serge was diagnosed with Berger’s disease and was told that he would likely need to go on dialysis in his 70s. Knowing that most people carry a “spare” kidney, I immediately told him he could count on me as a donor when the time came. Years went by until he had one of his kidneys removed due to cancer and, just like that, dialysis became part of his life in his late 50s. That’s when we all started witnessing the beginning of what I call “the dimmer effect” (like those light switches). The Serge we all knew as a dynamic, energetic, outgoing, social and adventurous man was gradually replaced by someone who had to do 5 peritoneal dialysis exchanges per day, had little energy and was anchored at home. This all changed on November 6, 2014, when he received my left kidney at the Royal Victoria Hospital in Montreal. Now he’s back to being his old self of 30 years ago (really!) and although he tends to think he is the lucky one, I know deep down that I am the one who got the bigger gift. I traded 130 grams for a boost in energy that is arguably greater than the one he got! This is a concept that, for the longest time, he had trouble grasping and the reason it was so hard to convince him to accept my kidney in the first place; but, thankfully he came around in the end. I benefited greatly from talking to two living donors prior to our surgery and I can’t wait to pay it forward! I am excited to be a Transplant Ambassador and I hope that our story will help demystify living organ donations for both donors and recipients.cpisapia@transplantambassadors.ca

Claudia Morgan for transplant ambassador program

Claudia Morgan

From a very young age, I suffered from a genetic disorder called Polycystic Kidney Disease (PKD). This disorder caused multiple fluid filled cysts in the kidneys that painfully and slowly decreased my kidney function. After many years of battling with PKD, my kidneys eventually shut down and I was reliant on dialysis 3 times per week for 4 hours each session to sustain me. After speaking with my Nephrologist she suggested that my best chance for long term survival was a kidney transplant. I shared this news with family and friends and while several people stepped forward to be tested, unfortunately none were a match (including my mother). I became fustrated with the process and decided to share my efforts with my church. My Youth Minster instantly came up with a creative idea to reach the masses. "Let's make a video and post it to social media!" Within a week my video was posted on Facebook and within a few days it had been shared across the globe. It even went as far as Okinawa, Japan to one of our Church Missionaries, Valerie. Feeling compelled to do something, Valerie went to get tested and posted a call to action to all her fellow Christians. That very night the message touched the heart of a fellow Christian. That person was Julia (Valerie's sister), who was living in Toronto. Julia went to get tested and was a match!! On May 22,2018 Julia gave me a second chance at life and instantly became the newest member of my family. Today I give back because someone so graciously gave to me! claudiam@transplantambassadors.ca