Blind Bay’s Kim O’Reilly and son Brandon O’Reilly, who donated one of his kidney’s to his mother in 2001, are both supporters of organ donation registration. (Lachlan Labere-Salmon Arm Observer)

Blind Bay’s Kim O’Reilly and son Brandon O’Reilly, who donated one of his kidney’s to his mother in 2001, are both supporters of organ donation registration. (Lachlan Labere-Salmon Arm Observer)

Shuswap mom shares rewarding and tragic life experiences to encourage organ donation

Blind Bay resident received a kidney from her son in 2001, and a pancreas in 2008

Two decades have passed since Brandon O’Reilly gave up one of his kidney’s for his mother Kim.

It was an easy decision for him then, and one that helped shape his view on the importance of organ donation.

“What are you going to do with it when you’re gone? If you can save some lives or changes people’s lives for the better, I think that’s the way to do it,” said Brandon.

Brandon’s kidney was the first donated organ Kim would receive.

Sometime after the 2001 transplant surgery, Kim said she met with the University of Alberta’s Dr. James Shapiro who was responsible for the islet transplant procedure for the treatment of type 1 diabetes.

“He asked me if I’d be interested in a pancreas, going on the list for a pancreas,” said Kim. “Initially, I thought it was the islet cell he was talking about, but he was talking about the entire pancreas.”

Kim was on a wait list for about three-and-a-half years. In 2008, she was called to the university hospital where she underwent surgery.

“I woke up the next morning and didn’t need to take insulin anymore. It was just amazing,” said Kim. Also amazing for her was the rehabilitation/recovery process, during which she had an opportunity to meet others who had received organs from the same donor.

“That to me was, holy cow, what a gift that person gave,” said Kim.

Kim and Brandon, who reside in the Shuswap, became organ donation advocates after the kidney transplant. She said they did some speaking engagements together.

Read more: Special honour for young heart transplant recipient

Read more: Best Christmas gift ever

Kim also worked for the university on its transplant program evaluation. She recalled one of the questionnaires she put together which asked, are you registered as an organ donor and if not, why? Kim said many of the non-registered respondents simply didn’t understand organ donation or how the process worked.

Another personal experience also helped shape Kim’s views on the importance of organ donation. In 1989, she had a daughter, Brittney, who was born with biliary atresia, a condition in which the bile ducts from the liver don’t drain properly. Brittney was put on a transplant list and she and Kim travelled from Alberta to London, Ont., where the surgery could be done.

The day a donor liver became available Brittney passed away. She had been on the donor list for six weeks.

“The doctors tried but she was just to ill by then to survive it,” Kim said.

The tragedy prompted Kim to assess what’s most important in life, and prioritize things that make her happy.

“I’m just so thankful she was in our life, she taught us so much about living and life and everything else,” said Kim.

In Brittney’s memory, Kim’s husband Dan signed up to donate his bone marrow. He ended up being a match with a cancer patient, and was able to donate.

“When I think about it I have to pinch myself sometimes, the coincidences in our family, of what happened for who…,” said Kim.

With her two pancreases and three kidneys, Kim said she hasn’t had to have an insulin shot since the transplant in 2008. In 2012, she competed in the Canadian Transplant Games, in the 50-, 100- and 400-metre sprints, and brought home gold medals in the process.

While parts of her story are difficult to share, Kim is pleased to help educate others on the importance of organ donation, and raise awareness of Green Shirt Day, coming up on April 7. This campaign was inspired by Humboldt Bronco’s defenceman Logan Boulet, who was one of 16 people killed in a bus crash in April 2018. Being a registered organ donor, Boulet saved six lives, according to the Green Shirt Day website, and prompted the “Logan Boulet Effect,” in which approximately 15,000 people were inspired to become donors.

More information about Green Shirt Day can be found at greenshirtday.ca. For more information about becoming and organ donor, or to register, visit www.transplant.bc.ca.

@SalmonArm
lachlan@saobserver.net

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter

Salmon Arm

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Oliver Fire Department. (Submitted photo)
More human caused fires in Oliver

Firefighters have been kept busy putting out several potentional wildfires

Old English design elements can be seen in the sign of the Summerland Farm and Garden Centre in 1993. The guidelines are no longer in place, but some downtown businesses still show aspects of the days when Summerland had a theme in place. This photo was taken by Summerland photographer Dan Dorotich. (Photo courtesy of the Summerland Museum)
Summerland’s Old English theme has been abandoned

From the 1980s until the early 2000s, Summerland had design guidelines in its downtown

Penticton bylaw officers tore down a “pretty significantly sized” homeless camp underneath the bridge near Riverside Drive Friday, April 16 morning. (Brennan Phillips - Western News)
Penticton bylaw tears down ‘significantly sized’ homeless camp under bridge

Many residents had made complaints about the camp before it was torn down

Through their Simple Generosity campaign, Valley First has pledged to donate $1 million of community support to British Columbia communities in 2021. (Contributed)
Valley First rewarding Penticton families with innovative way to thrive together

Participants with ‘inspiring ideas’ will receive a surprise for their family, valued at up to $2,500

Elvira D’Angelo, 92, waits to receive her COVID-19 vaccination shot at a clinic in Montreal, Sunday, March 7, 2021, as the COVID-19 pandemic continues in Canada and around the world. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Graham Hughes
110 new cases of COVID-19 in Interior Health

Provincial health officers announced 1,005 new cases throughout B.C.

Flow Academy is located at 1511 Sutherland Avenue in Kelowna. (Michael Rodriguez - Capital News)
Black Press Media Weekly Roundup: Top headlines this week

Here’s a quick roundup of the stories that made headlines across the Okanagan, from April 11 to 16

A Western toadlet crosses the centre line of Elk View Road in Chilliwack on Aug. 26, 2010. A tunnel underneath the road has since been installed to help them migrate cross the road. Saturday, April 24 is Save the Frogs Day. (Jenna Hauck/ Progress File)
Unofficial holidays: Here’s what people are celebrating for the week of April 18 to 24

Save the Frogs Day, Love Your Thighs Day and Scream Day are all coming up this week

An Extinction Rebellion Vancouver Island (XRVI) climate change event in 2019 saw a large crowd occupy the Johnson Street bridge. Black Press File Photo
‘In grief for our dying world’: B.C. climate activists embark on 4-day protest

Demonstrators will walk through Vancouver for the first two days before boarding a ferry Sunday morning

A vial of some of the first 500,000 AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine doses that Canada secured. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Carlos Osorio
Canada’s 2nd blood clot confirmed in Alberta after AstraZeneca vaccine

The male patient, who is in his 60s, is said to be recovering

Valen a student of Coldstream Elementary writes advice for adults amid a pandemic.
‘We can get rid of COVID together’: B.C. kids share heartwarming advice

Elementary students share their wisdom to adults in unprecedented times

Mervin Mascarenhas giving one of his pens to Honorary JP-MP. Premier David Burt of Bermuda. (Image: Mervin Mascarenhas)
Kelowna man who made $90K ‘Space Pen’ recognized by dignitaries, sheikhs

Mervin Mascarenhas is the first Canadian to grace the cover of Millennium Millionaire Magazine

The funeral of Britain’s Prince Philip in Windsor, England, on Saturday, April 17, 2021. Philip died April 9 at the age of 99. (Kirsty Wigglesworth/AP)
PHOTOS: Prince Philip laid to rest Saturday as sombre queen sits alone

The entire royal procession and funeral took place out of public view within the grounds of Windsor Castle

B.C. Health Minister Adrian Dix and Premier John Horgan describe vaccine rollout at the legislature, March 29, 2021. (B.C. government)
B.C. health minister says delay in Moderna vaccine ‘disappointing’

‘The sooner we get vaccines in people’s arms the better, and inconsistency in delivery is a consistent problem. This is simply a reality and not an issue of blame,’ Adrian Dix said Friday

(Police handout/Kamloops RCMP)
B.C. man dies in custody awaiting trial for Valentine’s Day robbery, kidnapping spree

Robert James Rennie, who was on the Kamloops RCMP’s most wanted list, passed away at the North Fraser Pretrial Centre in Coquitlam

Most Read