UPDATE: Community comes together to aid family


Spencer Watson of Kamloops who is in Hong Kong where his younger brother Mike of Kaleden is scheduled to get a liver transplant said today surgery is set for about 8 p.m. Pacific Daylight Time, Feb. 29. Of the four potential donors, Mike's partner Lisa Needoba has been selected as the best match.

To date over $121,000 has been raised on their crowd-funding website.


Amid the cheers of a small group of well wishers at Penticton Regional Airport this morning Mike Watson was taken from an ambulance to a waiting airplane on the first leg of his journey to Hong Kong where he will hopefully undergo a liver transplant needed to save his life.

Once on board the donated plane from Kelowna, Watson, his partner Lisa Needoba and critical care flight nurse Brad MacIver left for Vancouver International where they were scheduled to take an Air Canada direct flight to their destination.


With time quickly running out, a Kaleden father of three is set to make the flight for his life to Hong Kong today (Feb. 26).

Mike Watson, 39, desperately needs a liver transplant and arrangements have been made for him, his partner Lisa Needoba, potential donor Roy Morandin and a registered nurse to travel to a hospital there for the surgery.

While Watson was in Penticton Regional Hospital earlier in the week, his older brother Spencer was making arrangements for the journey and waiting for him to stabilize to the point where he could safely make the trip.

That medical determination for the family came Wednesday.

The same evening Needoba posted on her Facebook page: “Arrangements are made for a Friday departure to Queen Mary Hospital in Hong Kong escorted by an RN door to door:). Thank you to the moon and back for making this possible!!!!!!!!!”

The appreciation was to the many people who have joined together to offer whatever help they can to give Watson, who doctors said would not survive long enough to receive a transplant in Canada, a second chance.

The couple is especially grateful to the more than 400 people who have, and continue to donate money, literally by the minute, to the compassionate YouCaring crowd-funding website

By late Thursday, the total had climbed to over $91,000 of the $264,000 goal.

Spencer, who lives in Kamloops and has pulled out all the stops to do whatever he can to save Mike, will also make the trip to Hong Kong.

“This is just awesome and for me, I think the pre-work is done and so we just have to worry about Mike,” said Spencer. “He’s in good spirits, and is stable but still in critical care because of all the complications, which are happening constantly, but right now he’s well enough to fly and we’re going with that.

“The nurse (going with Watson) flew into Penticton this morning (Thursday) and is consulting with Mike right now and prepping to to get ready.”

The private plane taking Watson to Vancouver from Penticton was generously donated by businessman Anthony Von Mandl.

At Vancouver International Airport an ambulance will take them to board the 13-hour, non-stop Air Canada flight to Hong Kong.

“We should be there our time Friday midnight, Saturday morning, at that point, testing him see if he will be able to receive the liver and then go from there,” said Spencer, who estimates the recovery time, barring any complications, will likely be about three months.

The donor may be able to return to Canada in as little as a week.

It was actually one night in mid-December that Mike, the national viticulturist for Constellations Brands, suffered a sudden and massive internal hemorrhage, barely surviving the night.

“It was so sudden, there was just no indication,” recalled Spencer. “You get a call that he might not make three days and he comes back and is looking and feeling better and then he gets a blood clot so it’s just been this up-and-down roller coaster. Up until 10 days ago we didn’t even think he was going to need a transplant. It’s been difficult.”

The couple has three children, Aidan, 10, Laila, seven, and four-year-old Shae who has Osteogenesis Imperfecta, a brittle bone disease often resulting in multiple bone fractures.

Spencer and his wife are looking after at least two of the children while the couple is away.

He was barely able to put into words the appreciation the family feels for the many, many people who have done so much, in such a little time to help them.

According to Spencer a number of people, including at least two from Penticton who do not even know Mike, offered to be tested as potential liver donors.

“It’s just amazing, especially the YouCaring site, I go to there just for moral support,” said Spencer. “Just see and read the stuff. The outpouring of support is overwhelming.”

One of those people, although Spencer has only communicated with her through email, is Monique Atherton of Penticton.

“They’ve (Lisa and Mike) gone through a lot and right now they really need each other,” said Atherton who has known the family for about eight years and is in daily contact with Needoba. “It’s amazing the incredible generosity of the community. There are so many initiatives to help them it’s just fantastic.”

In two days alone this week, nearly $20,000 went into the YouCaring account and a number of other fundraising efforts are planned for the future.

According to Atherton, the normal waiting time for a transplant in Canada can be at least six months due to available surgical space, donor screening and other issues.

“But right now, Mike doesn’t have six months so this (trip) is good,” she said.

At this time, it’s not known what, if any financial help will be forthcoming from the provincial health ministry.

Other fundraising efforts include the BC Hospitality Foundation  matching all funds raised up to $7,500 until Feb. 26, the April 16 Give and Let Live workshops for all ages (by donation) at Kaleden Elementary School followed by a black-tie event at Linden Gardens with dinner, entertainment and an auction. Tickets for the evening are $50.

On March 5, by donation photography mini-sessions by Moments Under Frame Photography will take place and April 17 at Twin Lakes Golf Course it will be golf by donation

Online donations are also being accepted and every $25 donated on YouCaring becomes an entry into a draw by Constellation Brands, Hester Creek Winery and Black Hills Winery.

Prizes include the ultimate wine cellar, valued at over $10,000, a weekend at Spirit Ridge Resort, a Hester Creek Villa package, and a hot air balloon ride for two.

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