A renewed life made possible through organ donation
Debbie Keough-Croken will never meet the woman who saved her life. But she’s encouraging others to follow that woman’s example by making a commitment to being an organ donor.
“She was a health-care worker in her twenties; I think maybe that work made her think about being an organ donor. She registered as a donor and when she passed away her family knew what her wishes were,” Keough-Croken says.
“That was my second birthday. My life began again because that woman made the decision to be a donor. She saved the lives of a number of people by being an organ donor.”
Keough-Croken is among a group of Canadian organ recipients who traveled to Ottawa recently for recognition on Parliament Hill. The event honours Green Shirt Day and National Organ and Tissue Donation Awareness Week, marking the legacy of Logan Boulet. Boulet, a member of the Humboldt Broncos hockey team, was killed along with fifteen team members in a highway collision and saved six lives through organ donation.
Keough-Croken says she got a second chance at life after she received a new liver in January 2013, after four years of waiting to be put on the transplant list and more than 20 years with a chronic disease that was destroying her liver.
“I was really in the final stages of this disease. My health had gotten so bad that the doctors temporarily took me off the transplant list because they didn’t think I was strong enough for the surgery,” she says. “I weighed 88 pounds at that point.”
“That all changed because of my donor.”
“Since my transplant, I have had four more grandchildren. I love being able to watch my grandkids enjoy things such as hockey, basketball, diving, piano, theatre, and many more activities. This past year I hosted my son’s wedding.
I have had the opportunity to travel to many places. We spent two weeks traveling around Europe with our youngest daughter, spending a memorable day in Rome touring Vatican City, the Colosseum and the Roman Forum, walking over 15 kilometres.
"I kept thinking back to the days when it was an effort just to walk upstairs to bed."
Debbie Keough-Croken says she hopes more people get the chance to live longer lives with organ donation. She said people have to take steps to make sure they are registered as donors, to talk to their families about their wishes, and to make sure their health providers understand this decision.
“I could go on and on about how my life has been changed by the thoughtfulness and selflessness of my donor and their family, but I will end by saying that my last thought at night and first thought in the morning is how thankful I am to have another wonderful day to look forward to.”