Even if you don’t believe in organized religion, hard to argue against the idea there is something greater than us out there. When the stars all seem to align, is that just chance? Dumb luck? Or something more?
Last spring, I met Grace, a little 5 year old girl from Maple Ridge who desperately needed a new kidney. Hard not to fall in love with her instantly because even though she was very sick, she had so much spunk and sass. Her family was also equally inspiring as they fought to make sure their daughter got the best care possible. Grace’s father Dennis was going to donate his kidney to her. The initial news story turned into an idea – would the family allow me and our Global BC cameras to document their journey? When they wholeheartedly agreed to open up their lives to us, I decided the only way to really get the message out was through a 5-part series on organ transplant.
The series aired last September, and though I met many inspiring people who were donors and recipients, it was Grace’s story that really stuck with me. Last night, Aaron and I left Addison in the capable hands of the nurses at Children’s and two of her aunties for a night out downtown at the RTNDA BC Awards Dinner (Radio and Television News Directors Association). Grace’s story was given the Dave Rogers Award for best short feature.
Here is my acceptance speech:
Thank you so much for this honour. This really means a lot to me. In between all those weather and real estate stories, every once in a while, there is a story that resonates and touches you personally. This was one of those stories.
As soon as I met Grace, a little 5 year old girl waiting for a kidney transplant, I felt a special connection. When I asked the family to open up their lives and let our cameras follow them through their journey, the whole heartedly agreed. That was last August.
Three weeks ago, Grace’s father Dennis, who donated his kidney to his daughter, told me, “I believe people come into your life for a reason.” Such simple words but so powerful. At the time, we were sitting in the waiting room of the Pediatric Intensive Care Unit at Children’s Hospital…not because Grace was back there. This time, it was me sitting by my daughter’s bedside as she fought for her life. She has been born 3 weeks prior, seemingly perfectly healthy. Her heart had failed. She was being kept alive by a special heart lung bypass machine.
Doctors told us to prepare for the eventuality Addison’s heart would not recover. The only hope for survival? A heart transplant.
No words can describe the utter devastation I felt when we were given the news. After my news series, I knew too well the life and death waiting game that hundreds of people in BC are playing right now. I knew too well how many people die every year while waiting.
Less than 72 hours after Addison was admitted to Children’s Hospital, she was put on the very top of the cross-Canada transplant list. Meanwhile, our surgeon made plans to put her on an artificial heart so she would have a better chance of even living long enough to get a transplant.
A day and a half later, we got the phone call. There was a heart available for Addison. On Mother’s Day, Addison got her new heart.
There were serious complications with the surgery, but now, 3 weeks later, she is doing great. On Monday, it will have been 4 weeks since she first got sick. And we get to take her home. Addison now has the honour of being the first infant ever to get a heart transplant at BC Children’s Hospital.
We get a lot of questions about the donor family, but we don’t know much about them. We do know they are from the US. We know their little baby was even young than Addison. There is really no way to thank them for the ultimate gift they have given us. While they had to say good-bye to their child, our baby girl gets another chance at life. In their darkest moment, they had the strength to say ‘yes’.
Right now, there are 382 people in this province waiting for an organ. Some of them will die.
Canada consistently has one of the worst organ donor rates in the world, with BC amongst the worst in Canada. Only 1 in 6 British Columbians are registered as organ donors, yet the overwhelming majority of us support organ donation. It’s time to change that. Sign up online, discuss your wishes with your family. It’s so cliche when we call it the gift of life, that is truly what we are talking about here.
I have thought a lot about Grace and her family and the struggles they went through. They have been amongst our most ardent cheerleaders through Addison’s battle. Today, Grace is a spirited 6 year old who won’t take no for an answer. She is a fighter, and so is Addison. They are both such inspirations to me, and hopefully to all of you. As journalists, we have the power to change the way people think. How can we not do everything we can to make sure other sick kids and adults also get a chance to live?