By Todd O’Keefe
Randel Tyler never expected to get sick. He eats healthy food and exercises more than five times a week. But he started to feel seriously ill for the first time in his life in the fall of 2005. By the time he saw a family doctor that December, an ultrasound showed his liver was already in critical danger.
Although initially diagnosed with primary sclerosing cholangitis (PSC), it wasn’t until after his first liver transplant in August of 2006 that doctors confirmed he was actually suffering from a rare blood-clotting disorder called Budd-Chiari syndrome. Immediately after the transplant, he passed a blood clot that obstructed the portal vein and his body slowly rejected the new liver.
Tyler received another transplant in October 2006. Six years later, he thinks about his second chance at life every day. As a spokesperson for the Canadian Transplant Games, which come to a close this weekend in Calgary, he’s joining fellow transplant recipients, their families and donor families in an Olympic-style celebration of life. His is made possible by donors and people like Dr. Bertus Eksteen, a member of the Snyder Institute for Chronic Diseases. Dr. Eksteen is a transplant hepatologist in the University of Calgary Liver Unit and is part of the team currently treating Tyler.
He is quick to point out the importance of signing a donor card.
“The Transplant Games in Alberta highlight more than the fact that organ donations save lives. They bring awareness to how signing a donor card can give meaningful lives back,” says Eksteen. “Transplantation has the authentic ability to take someone who is dying and give them back a high quality of life again. It allows survivors to take part in family activities or see their children grow up and get married.”
Tyler is living proof.
“The odds are that someone will either be directly affected or know someone who will be directly affected by organ donations,” Tyler says. “Organ donation is the gift of life.
“I was close to death many times during my 10-month hospital stay over that time period. But all the wonderful experiences I’ve had post-transplant would not have been possible unless two donors and their families gave me the selfless gift of life. We are eternally grateful.”
The Canadian Transplant Games are Olympic‐style events that bring transplant athletes and their supporters together to celebrate the gift of life. The Games are organized by the Canadian Transplant Association (CTA), a charitable organization committed to identifying and removing barriers to organ donation.