Heart Recipient Champions Organ Donation… And She’s Just 5

Addison Yong McArthur has a gold medal — it’s a special medal, the kind you earn with effort and, well, a lot of heart. The spunky five-year-old earned her medal at the 2016 World Transplant Games, where she was the youngest competitor, and the only runner in her age class.
Addison was just four weeks old when a pediatric heart transplant saved her life. 
The little girl shared her story on Sunday as ICBC and B.C. Transplant announced the launch of a new program aimed at growing the number of B.C. residents registered for organ donation. Starting Monday, drivers at every ICBC location in the province will be engaged in a conversation about organ donation, and given the opportunity to register.
A successful pilot program conducted in four ICBC locations across the province last year resulted in 15,000 donor registrations, said Greg Kyllo, MLA for Shuswap, who spoke on behalf of Health Minister Terry Lake. Kyllo said the pilot program showed that 50 per cent of British Columbians believed they were already registered for organ donation. Although 95 per cent of British Columbians support organ donation, the number of registered donors is just 21 per cent of the population. The provincial government, B.C. Transplant and ICBC teamed up to find a way to get more British Columbians registered.
Addison appeared to be a healthy newborn, said her mother Elaine Yong, but at three weeks old she had a day where she wasn’t feeding well, and her temperature was cool. Addison’s parents took her to the hospital where they were shocked with a sudden, and grim prognosis: their baby had to be put on life support, and would die unless she received a heart transplant.
Addison was lucky — within days a heart became available. Although transplant information is typically kept private, Addison’s parents were able to connect with their donor family. “It was a six-day old baby,” said Yong, who wanted to stress that the organ donation process can be positive, not just for the recipients, but for families grieving a deep loss. “The mother said yes, and it’s been amazing. It is an incredible, incredible gift.”
Source: Vancouver Sun/Denise Ryan
Photo: © NICK PROCAYLO

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