Tom Mitrovski is a good natured man with a warm smile who appreciates every day – and for Tom, that means he has been able to enjoy more than 12,000 days he might not have otherwise.
Tom is an organ recipient. Thanks to the selflessness of one family, he received a new kidney in November 1979. In the more than 33 years he’s had since then, he’s been able to watch his three children grow up, get married and have children of their own.
Tom appreciates that gift every day.
“I am able to see my nine grandchildren,” he says. “I have a different outlook. I have a second chance at life. I appreciate that.”
But Tom is one of the lucky ones. In Ontario, there are nearly 1,500 people waiting for an organ. There are 89 alone in Scarborough. Every three days, someone dies waiting for an organ. One donor can save up to eight lives.
To help change that situation, The Scarborough Hospital is doing its part during National Organ and Tissue Donation Week, April 21-27, to try to increase the number of people who have registered their consent for organ or tissue donation. We are running a Gift of 8 campaign with special events at both campuses, and promoting our own Gift of 8 page, which can be found at https://beadonor.ca/scarborough-hospital
In 2012, 26 Scarborough residents – people just like Tom – received an organ from a donor, but only six people from The Scarborough Hospital were donors. Just nine per cent of Scarborough residents have registered their consent compared with 14 per cent across Toronto as a whole and 22 per cent provincially.
“One donor can save up to eight lives and enhance the lives of up to 75 others through the gift of tissue. A signed donor card does not mean you are registered; you can register your consent or check your status online or in-person at a ServiceOntario centre,” says Michele Stoncius, Trillium Gift of Life Organ and Tissue Donation Co-ordinator at The Scarborough Hospital.
TSH’s entire ICU team is supportive of organ donation; they know how important it is for people to register their consent and to share their wishes with their family.
“Registering as a donor can help prevent unnecessary deaths of Ontarians on the transplant wait list. Families approached to consider organ and tissue donation almost always consent when they are given evidence of their loved ones’ registration, while those who decline usually state it is because they are not sure what their loved one would have wanted,” says Dr. Howard Clasky, lead ICU physician at The Scarborough Hospital.
Tom spent three years on dialysis waiting for the call that there was a kidney available for him. While happy to receive the call, he was still uncertain about his future. Not knowing how much time the new kidney had bought him, Tom took his young family to Florida for a vacation.
Eventually, he hit the three-month mark without rejection or complications, so he went back to work; then he hit the six-month mark, the one year milestone; and finally, at five years and with his health still on track, he began to feel positive about the future.
“After that, I almost forgot I had a transplant,” Tom says.
But, of course, he never forgets. He thinks every day of the selfless gesture of the family who gave him a second lease on life and he is careful to take good care of the kidney – which he’s nicknamed “Jerry” – to honour the decision that family made.
Tom is also happy to share his story of organ donation with whomever he can.
“Sometimes you can inspire someone,” he says. “Especially if people see that I’ve had a kidney for almost 34 years.”
He and his family also made the decision to give back.
“As a result of my transplant, when my wife passed away, she donated her eyes,” Tom says.
He hopes others will do the same. When asked if he’s registered his consent, he replies without hesitation “oh, yes!”
To help The Scarborough Hospital reach our goal for registered donors, visit beadonor.ca