Ontario woman donates liver to neighbour, saves her life

When 21-year-old Erica Tomlinson learned that her neighbour, Renee Ly, a 39-year-old mother-of-two, was suffering from a rare liver disease and was in need of a transplant, she immediately volunteered her liver.

"I knew it had to be done," Tomlinson told the Toronto Star. "I just said, 'A life's a life and if I can do this, I'm going to do it.'"

Ly had moved with her husband and two sons to Milton, Ont., next door to Tomlinson's family, in 2010.

The two families became fast friends.

"It started off borrowing a cup of sugar or some milk, it turned into borrowing a liver," said Tomlinson, laughing.

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When Tomlinson learned that Ry's condition was serious — she likely had just a year to live without a new liver — she didn't hesitate to offer her own liver. She demanded that she undergo testing to see if she was a match.

"It's very hard to accept someone wanting to do something like that for you, putting themselves at risk," said Ly, who refused the offer at first. "And her age — she’s so young, with so much going for her."

Tomlinson was a match. With the blessing of her family, she donated 70 per cent of her liver to Ly in late November.

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After a slow and steady recovery — Tomlinson required a second surgery after experiencing some internal bleeding after the donation — both women are now doing well.

By next month, Tomlinson's liver will have completely regenerated.

"I don’t remember ever feeling this good," Ly told the Star.

The friends, now bonded for life, hope their story inspires others to consider organ donation. More than 1,500 people in Ontario are currently awaiting an organ.

"I'd do it again in a heartbeat," Tomlinson said. "And I've still got a kidney up for grabs."

(Photo courtesy Reuters)