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No Room for "Negatives"

For eighteen years of his life, less than 10 percent of Gordon Denison’s kidney was functioning. It wasn’t until a routine check-up in 1998 that Denison realized the severity of his condition.

On a Monday he was a two-sport high school athlete (football and track) and by the end of the week he was on dialysis.

“The doctor had to basically tell me, ‘[Gordon’s kidneys] are gone,’” recalls his father, Rick Laverty. “And we had to wait for a transplant.”

Added Denison: “I didn’t know what to think. It’s hard hearing [you need a transplant] and it was very hard for me the first day.”

Fortunately for Denison, a new kidney came ten months later. But sometimes others aren’t so lucky. According to a report filed by the Canadian Organ Replacement Register in June 2001, 4% of Canadians on the transplant waiting list died in 2000 before having a chance for a transplant. That same report also indicated that although the number of transplants performed rose from 1991 to 2000, the number of people on the waiting list grew at a higher rate (1,289 transplants for 1,830 on the waiting list in 1991 compared to just 1,901 transplants for 3,800 in 2000.)

“We didn’t know anything and that’s sad,” said Laverty of his knowledge of transplants before his son’s procedure. “We have to educate the public. The organs of one can save the lives of seven or eight others.”

Denison has used his experience, and his ability to speak both English and French, to become a spokesperson for the National Kidney Foundation in Montreal. Now he goes around educating others about transplantation and how it works, something he never learned about when he was younger.

“I’m hoping people are listening (to me) when I say, ‘Hey, it works.’” he said.

But more than being a spokesperson for a major foundation, Denison acts as a spokesperson for all transplant patients when he competes in the World Transplant Games. Despite the news that he would have to go on dialysis when he was 18, Denison didn’t envision himself just sitting around. He simply asked himself how could he continue being active while still on dialysis.

“As an athlete you’re told that you cannot look at the negatives,” he said. “The more negatives you think of, the less room there is for positives.”

The Montreal native believes that the Games give hope to not only the patients but also their families. Watching over 1,500 athletes participating in such events like swimming, track, and cycling, among other things, is more than enough to push someone with a new kidney, liver, or even heart to do more than think that their life is over. And it helps families to believe, even when it seems like there is no hope left.

“I don’t know about you,” Denison says looking over the sun-soaked bleachers at TD Waterhouse Stadium, “but I see A LOT of life around here.”

There sure was life on the track this Friday afternoon: fast walkers on the track, long jumpers off to the side, and high jumpers and shotputters competing off in the far corner.

All that life made possible because someone else decided to give the most important gift of all.

Their organs.

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Last updated on: Friday, 05-Feb-2010 10:11:56 EST