Marilyn Byfield gazing at the view from her balcony

‘I’m always grateful’: New liver gives Kelowna woman a fresh chance at life

B.C. liver transplant recipient is giving back to the community, after an organ donor saved her life

An Okanagan woman now has a second chance at life after receiving a liver transplant.

After six years of suffering with autoimmune hepatitis, Marilyn Byfield was put on BC Transplant’s waiting list, she said she was on the operation table only ten days before she would have died and is here today because someone chose to be an organ donor.

“A lot of people get hepatitis through blood transfusions or drugs, but mine was auto immune, so that means my immune system attack itself and attacked my liver. I was told about five or six years out that I would need a transplant at some point in time, but I thought it was quite a ways down the road, well it turns out it wasn’t,” said Byfield.

During the six years prior to the transplant Byfield said she was sick a lot but in the last year, she was in the hospital for 90 days out of the year and that’s when she knew she had to get a transplant now or she was going to die.

READ MORE: ‘Don’t worry sis, my kidney’s your kidney’: B.C. women share transplant journey

“My liver was failing and there was nothing they could do, so I was put on the transplant list and received a liver ten days prior to me not being here,” said Byfield.

Byfield said she went through extensive interview process to get on the list because if you’re not able to handle what comes after the transplant, you won’t be eligible to receive one.

“You’re examined by a number of different people because there isn’t enough to go around and one body can save up to eight peoples lives. I take about 25 anti-rejection pills a day and if someone can’t handle doing that after and the organ is wasted, that is the true tragedy,”said Byfield.

She went to therapy to deal with the reality that someone is going to have to die for you to live.

“I came to terms with it quite quickly – we are taught how the process works and I look at it like we are recycling. We are encouraged to recycle every day and it’s just another means of reusing and in this case a healthy organ can be reused to save a life,”said Byfield.

READ MORE: Okanagan man reflects on life after being a recipient of kidney transplant

Not only is Byfield grateful, but she gives back to the BC Transplant Society through volunteer work.

“Fairly soon after my transplant, I was looking for ways to give back, so I got in touch with BC Transplant and volunteered with the in Vancouver, because I was living there at the time and when I came to Kelowna, I got involved with our local support group. I’m the coordinator of the support group for post and pre-transplant patients and we meet once a month,” said Byfield.

She’s grateful to the person and family who chose to be an organ donor because without them she wouldn’t have a life she loves.

“We don’t know who the family is of the person whose organ you received, but I’m always grateful to whoever they may be because I get to continuing living. You always appreciate life a little differently after the surgery and I’m grateful for everyday.”

BC Transplant Services says they have 1,395,534 registered donors.

This year there have been 126 transplants performed and 680 patients are on the waiting list.

BC Transplant Services statistics show 502 lives were saved in 2018 using the organs of 122 deceased donors and 100 living kidney donors.

READ MORE: B.C. heart transplant recipient is travelling to every country because ‘life is short’

The Manager of Communications and Community Relations, Elaine Yong said, 2018 was a record year, seeing 50 lung, 77 liver, 28 heart and 339 kidney transplants.

“We saw a spike in live liver donors last year and our goals are to keep spreading awareness and continue to educate people about organ donation through our efforts and those of our volunteers,” said Yong.

If you want to be an organ donor or don’t know if you are one or not, participate in Green Shirt Day this Sunday across Canada. The day is in honour of the Logan Boulet Effect, in support of organ donor awareness and registration across the country.

Boulet died in the Humboldt Broncos bus crash and his parent’s organized Green Shirt Day to inspire people to donate. Boulet saved six lives.

BC Transplant Services website said, 4,870 British Columbians are alive because of an organ transplant.


@LarynGilmour
laryn.gilmour@blackpress.ca

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