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Barrie woman shares experience on being a living organ donor... twice!

Jocelyn Leworthy talks about her experience of being an organ donor while urging people to also sign up

Donating an organ isn't something many can say they've done. 

So, imagine doing it twice!

For Barrie's Jocelyn Leworthy, who has donated part of her liver and one of her kidneys, it's something most people don't contemplate doing. 

"People often don't think about it until it becomes something imminent in their life," she said. 

In the spirit of Organ and Tissue Donation Awareness Month, she hopes her story will inspire others to consider being a live donor if they are able. 

The first time she donated was in 2015. She was 19 years old and studying at university. 

"My aunt got really ill and we didn't know what was wrong and there were talks that she might need a donation," Leworthy said. 

She had heard of organ donation before and stepped up to donate to her aunt. 

In the end, her aunt ended up not requiring an organ donation, but Leworthy's interest had already been piqued. 

"I learned so much information and I kind of mentally prepared myself that I wanted to do this," she said. "There are so many people on that list (in need of an organ) and if I could do that and live a healthy life, I would happily do that."

Currently in Ontario, there are more than 1,600 people waiting for a life-saving organ transplant. Every three days, someone will die because they didn't receive an organ in time.

"It was a really positive experience for me," Leworthy said.

She was back at school, living her life normally two weeks after her first surgery in October 2015. 

"It fuelled me to want to do it again," she said. 

In January 2020, she started the process to donate again, this time involving one of her kidneys. Due to COVID, the process was a lot slower and she didn't end up having the surgery until January 2021. 

The recent surgery was part of the Kidney Paired Donor exchange, which matches transplant candidates with living donors. It gives people the chance to become a living kidney donor while ensuring someone they want to help receives a needed kidney, even if they are not a direct match.

"It's amazing and a lot to co-ordinate, which is another reason (the surgery) took so long (to happen)," she explained.

Prior to both surgeries, there were questions, assessments and testing conducted on her overall health, followed by an interview with a donor co-ordinator, who acts as the main point of contact for any questions or concerns throughout the entire process. 

"It's very team-oriented, step by step. You don't move onto the next step until you're approved," Leworthy said. 

Donating her kidney was a little more complex than donating her liver, she said. When she donated her liver, she was in the intensive care unit for an eight-hour surgery, whereas the kidney surgery was conducted on a regular transplant unit in three and a half hours.

Leworthy says she is feeling great and living life normally. 

"Physically, it's amazing to know what you're body's capable of," she said. "I've healed really well."

In terms of the impact it has had on her life, she says it's a ripple effect. 

"I hope to inspire other people to think about organ donations," she said.

Leworthy has also been a guest speaker at local high schools, sharing her story with the younger generation. Be A Donor has its own curriculum, called One Life Many Gifts, to educate secondary school student son the importance of organ and tissue donations. It was developed by Trillium Gift of Life NetworkLondon Health Sciences Centre's Multi-Organ Transplant Program and the Kidney Foundation of Canada

She acknowledges donating can be scary for a lot of people to donate and may not be possible, but encourages everyone to register for the organ and tissue donation online should they die. 

"Unlike other places in the world where it's an opt-out system, you have to opt-in," said Leworthy. 

According to the Be A Donor website, only 35 per cent of eligible Ontarians are registered. That's approximately 4.4 million out of 12.7 million people. 

When you register, your consent for organ and tissue donation, and you let those waiting know that you would help them if you could.

Because of people like Leworthy, since 2003 more than 20,000 people have received a life-saving organ transplant. 

Anyone can register to be an organ and tissue donor in the event of their death through the Ontario government website. Registering as a donor is the only secure and guaranteed way to make your decision known.

 


Natasha Philpott

About the Author: Natasha Philpott

Natasha is BradfordToday's Community Editor. She graduated from the Media Studies program at The University of Guelph-Humber. She lives in Bradford with her husband, two boys and two cats
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