An Ontario mother has taken her search for a liver donor online in hopes of saving her life.
In September 2018, Leanne Blyth, of Coburg, Ont. was diagnosed with liver failure due to cirrhosis, and began the arduous process of being placed on the organ-recipient list. The 46-year-old wife and mother-of-two quickly began to deteriorate after developing pneumonia and dropping below 120 pounds.
“I kind of was just in this dream world,” Blyth said in an interview with Global News. “I didn’t think I was going to live; I thought I was hanging on to say goodbye.”
After months of waiting, Blyth remains one of approximately 1,600 Ontarians in need of organ donation. Her husband of 19-years, Rob Yagrines, says the family struggles to remain in good spirits and think positively.
“She can only receive from an O,” Yagrine told local newspaper Coburg Now. “We’re still just waiting for that opportune moment. She’s basically on-call 24/7, and so am I, the primary caregiver. A phone call will come possibly at some point, saying this person has passed on, is a perfect match, and she has to be prepared; it’s a pack-a-bag and get to Toronto General Hospital as fast as possible. The window of opportunity is literally like 4 hours.”
In June, Blyth’s doctors encouraged her to seek a live liver donor, who could potentially donate a portion of their liver which would regenerate to within 90 per cent of its original size, instead of waiting for a deceased donor.
Blyth’s childhood friend Tricia Mumby created the Facebook group and webpage Leanne Needs a Liver Donation to help find a viable living donor. In the weeks since the group was created, more than 100 people have come forward to determine whether they are suitable candidates for living organ donation.
Yagrine says the response from the town of less than 20,000 has been “overwhelming” as many of the volunteers have been complete strangers.
“I have had people I haven’t seen in a decade get tested,” he said. “It’s just amazing to see the outreach from the general public, and all those people, we don’t even have a clue who they are.”
According to the University Health Network, the ideal living liver donor liver must be between the ages of 16 to 60-years-old and in good health, and a blood type match to the recipient. Potential donors must undergo a series of blood tests, CT scan and MRI and meet with a team of doctors before the surgery can go as planned.
Dr. Mark Cattral, one of the transplant surgeons at Toronto General Hospital told Global News that approximately one-third of formally assessed candidates result in surgery. The Toronto General Hospital team estimates that 25 to 30 per cent of patients die while waiting for a donor.
“Living donors are basically a response to the problem of the shortage of deceased donors,” Cattral said. “The key advantage to a living donor transplant is that it almost eliminates that risk of wait list mortality, which is where most of our patients die.”
The positive response from the community has helped Blyth stay positive on her bad days. Despite the renewed hope, she admits she has already considered the possibility that she won’t live to see her children grow up, or have children.
“I want them to go and do,” Blyth said of her wish for her family. “I want them to be happy and get through this life, regardless of the circumstances that are here now.”