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'Organ donation saved my life:' Local man shares personal story

'To receive that second chance at life, to spend more time with your family ... is an incredible gift,' says Orillia organ donation recipient
A special flag-raising ceremony for Organ Donation Awareness Month took place outside the Orillia Opera House on Monday. From left are organ donation recipient Max Durnford, organ donor and City Counc. Janet-Lynne Durford, Orillia Mayor Don McIsaac, and advocate Margot Crowder Davidson.

A flag raising at the Orillia Opera House that kicked off Organ Donation Awareness Month on Monday was a poignant moment for an Orillia man.

Max Durnford knows first-hand the importance of organ donors. He comes from a family with a history of polycystic kidney disease. Despite clearing multiple tests throughout his life, Durnford found himself in hospital in 1998 with kidney stones while his youngest child was being born.

"The diagnosis after that was that I actually had polycystic kidney disease," he explained. "I was told that at the progression that I was at, I had two years of a normal life left in which I may need a transplant, and if I don't get that I could possibly die."

Durnford, 57, was able to control the disease with medication and diet. In 2013, Durnford was mis-prescribed a medication that caused him to develop necrotizing pancreatitis.

"As a result of that, I lost almost 70 perc ent of my kidney function," he told OrilliaMatters. "For almost four years after that, I lived with a rapidly declining kidney function. By the time I got the transplant, which was in 2017, I had six per cent kidney function left in my native kidneys."

In June 2017, Durnford received a kidney through a pre-emptive transplant that, in essence, saved his life.

"Organ donation definitely saved my life," he said. "To donate your organs to someone who definitely needs them in the event of your untimely passing is one of the most generous things you could possibly do."

Giving an organ is "one of the most incredible gifts that anyone could give," Durnford says.

"To receive that second chance at life, to spend more time with your family, and to make decisions that you didn't think you'd be alive to make, is an incredible gift," he said.

Local advocate Margot Crowder Davidson, who helped organize the flag-raising event and other public events, is on a mission to increase awareness about organ donation in Orillia. 

"We want to encourage more people to register their consent to be an organ donor," she said. "We want people to realize what a gift that can be for people."

To donate your organs, Crowder Davidson says you should either go to Service Ontario to register with your health card or driver’s licence. You can also register in just a couple of minutes online by clicking here.

Crowder Davidson says some misconceptions often stop people from being organ donors.

"One of them is that they will try to take your organs before you die if you are in the hospital and sick," she explained. "That can never happen when you are still living. They have to wait until you are declared brain dead, and it would be impossible for you to continue living."

Crowder Davidson says you are never too old to be an organ donor.  

"The oldest donor was around 96," she said. "Maybe you have organs that don't work, but you may have tissue that is still good."

Crowder Davidson says there are over 1,000 people in Ontario currently waiting for transplants.

"Nearly every day someone dies while they are waiting," she said. "People are dying because they don't get transplants."

Being an organ donor gives others "a chance at life," Crowder Davidson says.

"I've heard of somebody living 35 years with a transplanted kidney," she said. "That's amazing."    

Tyler Evans

About the Author: Tyler Evans

Tyler Evans got his start in the news business when he was just 15-years-old and now serves as a video producer and reporter with OrilliaMatters
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