Tony Maidment knows better than anyone that life is short and precious moments are fleeting. The 47-year-old married father of two needs a liver transplant – he’s already been on the organ transplant wait list for four years and has no idea if and when a donor liver will ever materialize.
“It’s natural to feel guilty about the fact that someone has to die for me to live,” Tony explains.” But the reality is, we are all going to die someday. Making the decision to become an organ donor after you pass can save as many as eight lives, including mine.”
While he waits, Tony’s daughter, Kennedie has encouraged him to work with BC Transplant to raise awareness about the importance of organ donation in British Columbia. Recently, the two were invited to share Tony’s story with staff at the Service BC centre in Kamloops. The move is part of a partnership between Service BC and BC Transplant in a unique awareness campaign designed to provide Service BC clients with information on organ donation and encourage them to register their decision to become an organ donor on-site or online.
“I thought I’d go in to Service BC and play it by ear – I was glad to have my daughter there to support me,” he says. “Everyone was so welcoming. At one point, I had to take a moment to compose myself and there was dead silence in the room. I think that moment was so powerful because these people realized, ‘Wow, this is someone’s dad’.”
Tony and Kennedie’s visit had a profound impact on Service BC customer service representative Chloe Benson and her manager, Gordon Swan. Months later, Chloe still gets emotional when she remembers hearing Tony’s story first-hand.
“I don’t think there was a dry eye in the room,” she recalls. “Seeing someone close to my age who is in fear of losing her father – and knowing how close I am to my own dad – really struck a chord with me.”
As a father himself, Tony’s story stirred the same depth of emotion in Gordon.
“When Tony brought his child with him it added another dimension to the issue,” says Gordon. “To witness the next generation standing there beside her sick dad really hit home.”
Both Gordon and Chloe describe Tony’s visit as motivating for the Kamloops Service BC staff.
“Today, Tony’s face and his story are always at the forefront when we are dealing with customers,” says Chloe. “It’s easier to provide people with the information they need to register their decision because we now have such a personal connection to our work.”
Gordon agrees, calling Tony a member of the extended Service BC family.
“Tony’s visit was a testament to the partnership that’s been built between Service BC and BC Transplant,” he says. “Being proactive and encouraging awareness about organ donation has become an important part of our work. When you realize how many people like Tony are on the transplant list, you have to ask yourself, “Why wouldn’t I make that decision?”
For now, Tony is determined to remain positive and keep an open mind about the future. He’s also fiercely determined to continue spreading the word about organ donation.
“A new liver would change my life, but it’s not just about me,” he says. “I encourage all British Columbians to think about how they can give back after they are no longer living. From death can come the gift of life for hundreds of people waiting for a transplant. If everyone in B.C. registered as an organ donor, the list would shrink or even disappear. That’s what I’d like to see happen.”
Friendly staff at all 62 Service BC centres in communities throughout the province now provide information on organ donation and help residents register their decision on-site. People with online access can also register at: http://www.transplant.bc.ca/