the Waterloo Region Record, April 26, 2012
Jason Young was walking the halls of Preston High School on Wednesday as a former student, but more importantly as an organ recipient.
Young and two other Preston alumnae returned to the school during Organ Donation Week to show students they are living proof that organ donation saves lives.
“The message is that it saved my life,” said Young, a 34-year-old father to a one-year-old son. “There is the possibility of helping someone and saving their life.”
“We want to put a face on organ donation and show that it works,” said Kelly Thorman-Kleinschmidt, a 34-year-old mother of two boys.
Candice Coghlan, 26, had a kidney transplant in 2009 with an organ donated by her mother, just a year after being diagnosed with the final stage of renal failure. She had been sick as a teenager but was told she was suffering from allergies.
“I feel fabulous. It’s like night and day,” said the University of Guelph student who works full time for the Kidney Foundation of Canada. She was student council president at Preston in 2001 and graduated the following year.
Young and Thorman-Kleinschmidt were healthy teens at Preston High in the early 1990s.
“It was a total shock,” said Young, who was diagnosed with kidney disease in 2006.
He was getting ready for work one morning when he couldn’t put on his work boots. His feet were swollen and blood tests later showed there was protein in his urine. A biopsy confirmed the prognosis.
For two years he was involved in a study at Toronto General Hospital where his blood plasma was replaced with healthy plasma but to no avail. In 2009, he started a regiment of dialysis – 10 hours at night.
Then came a call came from a cousin in Chatham. She said she would like to donate her kidney. Telling the story brings tears to his eyes.
“I wasn’t that close to that side of my family, and she called me and wanted to get tested,” said Young. “It’s emotional for me thinking about it.”
The cousin was a match and Young’s transplant surgery was done on Jan. 2, 2011.
“It’s a new lease on life,” said Young, whose son was born a month after his transplant. A stay-at-home dad for now, Young hopes to return to school.
For Thorman-Kleinschmidt, the sign of liver disease came during her first pregnancy in 2001.
“I felt itching to the bone,” said Thorman-Kleinschmidt, who would awake in the morning with bloody arms from scratching all night.
Her healthy son was born and Thorman-Kleinschmidt was told she had an autoimmune liver disease and she would have to wait until her prognosis got worse before she would be eligible for a transplant.
“It was very frustrating, especially knowing the solution was obvious,” she said, referring to an uncle who wanted to donate his liver.
Nine years later, she had an organ transplant and feels indebted to her uncle. She also wears green this week to remind others about donating organs.
“Out of gratitude, I feel a sense of obligation to carry this forward,” she said.
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