Kristy Thackeray, a social worker at AgeCare in Calgary, is grateful to be turning 40 this May. She has a message to share with others, as Canada observes National Organ and Tissue Donation Awareness Week. “If you are willing to receive an organ, you should be willing to donate one.”
Kristy was 13 years old when she was diagnosed with a rare genetic heart condition called restrictive cardiomyopathy. For months she faced the dire possibility of imminent death if a donated heart did not become available to her.
On May 26, 1996, while enroute to Texas to realize her dream of meeting Reba McEntire – a wish granted by the Children’s Wish Foundation – Kristy’s family received word that a heart was available. Immediately the teen and her family were rerouted back to Edmonton where doctors performed a successful heart transplant.
“This is a miracle I am thankful for every moment of every day,” said Kristy.
In the months that followed, Kristy learned about her donor, 23-year-old Dawn Marie Tremblay, who had tragically passed away the day before Kristy’s transplant. From the unimaginable loss of Dawn’s life, came the profound gift of survival for Kristy, who is now married and the mother of two daughters.
Remarkably, the miracle of donor altruism impacted Kristy and her family twice, as one of Kristy’s daughters who also carries the gene for restrictive cardiomyopathy, received the gift a heart transplant in 2004 at the age of two and a half. Like Kristy, her operation was a success and she is now a healthy and prosperous 20-year-old who recently finished her office veterinarian tech program.
“May 26, the day I received my heart, was actually the birthday of my donor. So now, even though my own birthday is also in May, it is Dawn’s birthday that is really a significant celebration for me and my family,” said Kristy.
*If you are interested in becoming an organ and tissue donor, please CLICK HERE to access the online Registry in your province.