Ridge Meadows Hospital staff accept popcorn from kidney donor Debi Pearce, right, and recipient Geoff Dunsire, centre. (Colleen Flanagan/The News)

Ridge Meadows Hospital staff accept popcorn from kidney donor Debi Pearce, right, and recipient Geoff Dunsire, centre. (Colleen Flanagan/The News)

VIDEO: Maple Ridge transplant recipient and donor thank staff at hospital

BC Transplant’s Operation Popcorn took place across the province on Thursday, Dec. 9

Geoff Dunsire is a lucky man.

He has received the most precious gift anyone can ever receive – two times. On Sept. 20, 2013, Dunsire received a liver transplant and then in 2019 he received a kidney from the family’s real estate agent.

And on Thursday, Dec. 9, Dunsire, along with his mother Tracey, and kidney donor Debi Pearce were at Ridge Meadows Hospital with BC Transplant’s annual Operation Popcorn to say thank you to the health care workers that make organ donation possible.

Tracey told the health care workers gathered on Thursday her son’s quality of life has improved ten-fold since the kidney transplant.

“It’s changed my life as well,” added Pearce as she thanked the hospital staff. “I have a new appreciation for health. I got a lot healthier doing it because I had to go through the myriad of tests to make sure I was healthy.”

“Life is precious and we need to share,” Pearce remarked.

“So we call Debi his kidney mom,” noted Tracey.

Then the trio presented hospital staff with three red gift boxes containing mini bags of popcorn.

This is the 30th year for the event that allows individuals whose lives have been saved by organ donation to personally thank staff in intensive care units, emergency departments, and operating rooms across the province.

Dunsire came down with a liver disease called autoimmune hepatitis and by the time he was 25, he needed a life-saving liver transplant.

READ MORE: Best Easter present of his life

However after waiting too long for a match, his kidney’s started to fail and he contracted a blood infection that went to his heart and brain causing memory loss. Then he became paralyzed from the neck down.

After his transplant he spent 16 months in hospital, only able to return home in December 2014 and made a slow recovery, regaining the ability to walk. However, he would spend the next five years on dialysis during which his kidneys continued to fail. When his kidneys were six per cent operational they needed to find a living donor.

Pearce read about Dunsire’s search for a kidney donor in The News in 2018. She had been hired by the family for her services as a real estate agent. So she decided to see if she could be a match. When she found out she was she surprised Dunsire with a picture of a kidney cradled in a pair of hands. The transplant was performed in June 2019.

“It’s been a long one,” Tracey said of her son’s ordeal. “And so we have such and appreciation for all of you guys, for what you do every day.”

Especially those who work in the ICU, noted Tracey, because they see people at their worst.

ALSO: Maple Ridge man searching for a kidney donor

Operation Popcorn began in few hospitals but now involves 85 volunteers and popcorn deliveries to 26 hospitals across the province. It is a reminder of the people whose lives have been saved through the work of health care professionals in support of organ donors.

“There are more than 5,600 transplant recipients alive and thriving due to the dedicated efforts of all the caring health professionals across the province who support organ donation,” said Eric Lun, BC Transplant’s executive director.

Cathy Giles, director of clinical operations at Ridge Meadows Hospital, noted her own son also had to have a liver transplant at the age of 27 and now he is a married and a father of two.

Pearce showed off a silver bracelet containing a single word: “Believe” – a word she kept repeating to Tracey when she was undergoing testing to become a donor for Geoff.

Both herself and Tracey wear identical bracelets.

“This is what we use to remind ourselves of believing in miracles.”

According to BC Transplant there are more than 620 people waiting for a transplant. To register as an organ donor go to: taketwominutes.ca.


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