Todd and Andrea

Andrea Norgate, Pancreas Transplant Coordinator at TGH, and Todd Lawrence, who received a kidney and pancreas transplant at TGH, pose for a photo during the Canadian Transplant Games. Andrea also worked as Medical Lead for the week of the Games in Toronto. (Photo: Todd Lawrence)


Organ recipient Todd Lawrence lives by a simple but poignant catchphrase: “For my donor.”

At this year’s Canadian Transplant Games, hosted in Toronto earlier this month, Todd’s catchphrase caught on amongst his peers.

To register your consent to be an organ and tissue donor, please visit

“Any activity where I was doing well – if I was golfing, and I hit a good shot, I would say ‘For my donor!’ – That sends out a message that it’s not about me, it’s about my donor. That’s why I’m here,” he says.

“It got to a point at the Games where everyone joined me and we would all yell it out together.”

Since 2000, the Canadian Transplant Games have been bringing together organ recipients, organ donors and organ donors’ families for a fierce competition and a fond celebration of a second chance at life.

These Games brought together about 185 participants from across Canada, and 35 per cent of the athletes had received their transplants at Toronto General Hospital (TGH).

This year, for the first time, living organ donors competed alongside recipients.

“There’s a strong bond between all of us participating,” Todd says. “We all have our own story but we understand each other.”

Related to this story


Todd’s story: A journey of gratitude

Diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes at age 11, Todd lived with the disease for more than 20 years when his kidneys began to fail. After a three-year period on dialysis, he received a long-awaited call in 2002 from TGH. A deceased donor was a match for the kidney-pancreas transplant Todd needed.

Todd lawn bowling

At this year’s Games, Todd competed in lawn bowling (singles and triples), golf, 10-pin bowling and shotput. (Photo: Todd Lawrence)


“There was so much excitement, but at the same time I was thinking about my donor’s family and what they must have been going through at that moment.”

Now, 14 years after his transplant, Todd sees the Transplant Games as an opportunity to give back.

“For me, one of the most emotional moments is during the opening ceremonies when the donor families march in,” he says. “They’re looking right at the recipients and they see how much we appreciate them, what they’ve gone through and what they are going through.”

At this year’s Games, Todd competed in five events and received a medal for each. One fellow Toronto General organ transplant recipient and friend beat him out of a gold medal in lawn bowling: Jennifer Irwin, the Sport Co-Chair of the 2016 Canadian Transplant Games.

Jennifer’s story: A return to sport

A low sugar episode set Jennifer Irwin on the track towards transplant.

In 2006, she received a kidney from her brother through the Living Kidney Donation program at TGH. Then, three years later, she received a pancreas donation from a deceased donor.

Jennifer pony jump

Thanks to her two transplants at Toronto General Hospital, Jennifer has been return to the sports she loves, such as horseback riding. (Photo: Jennifer Irwin)


Exercise for transplant patients

Athletic competitions such as the Transplant Games are just one way for transplant recipients to stay active post-transplant. Some might be surprised to learn that physical activity is key both for patients awaiting transplants and those who have received them.

“Exercise is important before transplant to be sure that patients are in the best physiological condition to undergo a transplant,” says Dr. Heather Ross, Director of the Ted Rogers Centre of Excellence in Heart Function, PMCC and Medical Director of the Cardiac Transplant Program at TGH. “It can be quite difficult for patients to exercise when they have organ failure such as heart failure or respiratory failure. We use formalized exercise programs and rehabilitation to enable safe and effective exercise whilst patients wait.”

Much like the cardiac program, the Toronto Lung Transplant Program at TGH integrates exercise throughout a patient’s care. The transplant physiotherapy team works with each patient to develop a personalized fitness plan, says Denise Helm, Physiotherapist in the Toronto Lung Transplant Program.

Lung patients exercise with the team three times a week before transplant, and continue a routine with the program for three months after transplant – always closely monitored and well-educated about the activity.

“Exercise is essential for them even though they may find it a daunting idea,” Denise says. “Patients are often surprised that they can exercise when they are at the stage of needing a transplant.  Our programs are individualized in order to meet their changing abilities.”

Once patients have received transplants, Dr. Ross recommends they speak with their medical teams for recommendations on how to stay active.

“We recommend 150 minutes a week of moderate exercise if deemed safe by the treating physician,” she says. “PMCC routinely sends patients back for cardiac rehabilitation so they can be supervised as they resume their exercise program.”

The same recommendation to stay active goes for other transplant recipients, such as those working with the lung transplant team.

“Our patients have worked so hard before and after their transplant to get in the best shape possible,” Denise says. “I encourage them to continue this habit for life.”


Before her diagnosis, Jennifer played softball and five-pin bowling, and rode horses. But her stint with disease forced her to take on a less vigorous routine.

“There was a long time I thought I wouldn’t be able to lead the active and intense lifestyle I had,” Jennifer says. “I used to run a farm but it got to a point where it was too much. I’ve been able to get it all back and even more.”


For her, the Transplant Games represent how far all of the athletes have come.

“This is a way to show we can be athletic again; it’s a platform for us to shine.”

Organ donation works

According to the Trillium Gift of Life Network, there are over 1,500 patients waiting for an organ transplant and – of an eligible 12 million Ontarians – 29 per cent have registered consent to be donors.

“The purpose of the Games is to offer hope to the thousands of Canadians waiting for a life-saving transplant,” explains Sandra Holdsworth of the Ontario Provincial Director of the Canadian Transplant Association, which organizes the Games. “Organ donation works – our lives have been extended.

“We need more people to register to be organ and tissue donors so more lives can be saved.”

“It is really inspiring to physiotherapists and transplant patients to meet organ recipients who have participated in the Transplant Games or who are a number of years post-transplant. It is amazing to see the changes from pre to immediately post –transplant, and over the years as individuals are able to participate fully in life again.” – Denise Helm, Physiotherapist at the Toronto Lung Transplant Program, TGH, who works with lung transplant recipient before and after transplant to build personalized exercise programs.

Much of Toronto’s medical community also volunteered to help pull off a successful Transplant Games. Andrea Norgate, Pancreas Transplant Coordinator at TGH’s Multi-Organ Transplant program, volunteered as the Medical Lead.

“The Canadian Transplant Games really represent joy and doing well,” Andrea says. “When you’re at the sporting events and the athletes cross the finish line, you don’t even know who won because everyone is so happy.”

A deep gratitude

Although needing a pancreas and a kidney forced Jennifer to put her life on hold for a few years, she’s now grateful for her transplant experience.

“I’ve had a much more rewarding future than I thought I would have,” she says. “I take on new challenges all the time. If I hadn’t needed my transplants, I’m not sure I would be as ambitious as I am.”

Todd and Jennifer

As kidney and pancreas recipients from TGH, Jennifer and Todd call themselves the K/P team and have the toy versions of a kidney and pancreas to match. (Photo: Jennifer Irwin)


Todd sees his life as a tribute to all the people who have helped give him a second chance.

“I want to leave people with this: when you look at me, you’re not looking just at Todd,” he says.

“You’re also looking at my donor and their family. You’re seeing what they’ve been through and a celebration of their loved one’s life. When you look at me, you see my family too and how dedicated they are. You see all the hard work from the medical team at Toronto General Hospital and all the hours they put in to save me.”

“And finally you see yourselves, because you can think about how you can help spread the message of organ donation.”

The next Canadian Transplant Games will take place in 2018 and the Canadian Transplant Association has not yet announced the location. Next up for many of these athletes will the World Transplant Games in Malaga, Spain in 2017.

Written by: UHNNews

Four transplant patients tell their story: new organs are life-changing

UHN set a record number of transplants in the last year: 581.

This new record includes the first hand transplant in Canada performed at Toronto Western Hospital in January.

National Organ and Tissue Donation Awareness Week 2016

April 17 – April 23, 2016

Across Ontario, the numbers are equally dramatic:

  • 1,600 people in Ontario are on the waiting list for a transplant
  • Every three days someone in Ontario dies waiting for a transplant
  • 295 is the record number of organ donors in Ontario, reached in 2015
  • One organ donor can save eight lives
  • 29 per cent of Ontarians have registered to be an organ donor
  • To register to be an organ and tissue donor, visit

To mark National Organ and Tissue Donation Awareness Week, the following is happening at UHN:

Toronto Western Hospital

  • Monday April 18, – 12 p.m., 2nd floor auditorium – a pizza lunch and a presentation by tissue recipient Ralph Walker. Walker will speak about his experience of becoming a tissue recipient after surviving third degree burns on over 75 per cent of his body in an accident.
  • Wednesday April 20 and Friday April 22, – 8 a.m. – 3 p.m.: Booths will be set up in front of Shoppers Drug Mart providing information, “beadonor” items and a raffle for items from local businesses.

Princess Margaret Cancer Centre

  • Wednesday April 20, – 10 a.m. – 2 p.m.: an information booth where one can also register to be an organ donor.

Toronto General Hospital

  • Monday April 18 – Friday April 22, – 8 a.m. – 4 p.m. – Information booths will be set up in the in Eaton lobby where one can also register to be an organ donor.
  • Thursday, April 21, – Meet members of the Dragon Boat Team at the booth. They are are all organ recipients and compete in the Toronto International Dragon Boat Race Festival.

Staff and visitors carrying their health cards can register to be an organ and tissue donor at the booths listed above.

Every life saved through a transplant starts with just one click.

Register to be an organ and tissue donor online at

Written by UHN News


Image of winning team holding Dragons’ Den plaque along with Dr. Atul Humar and Segun Famure

Image of winning team holding Dragons’ Den plaque along with Dr. Atul Humar and Segun Famure

A web-based app to help patients see in seconds where they are in their evaluation process for a kidney transplant has won this year’s Dragons’ Den competition in the Multi-Organ Transplant Program Student Research Training Program (MOTSRTP).

The team expects their app, which can also be used on a Smart phone, to be pilot-tested by staff and patients within the next few months.

The nine-member student team was chosen by the transplant program audience after battling it out with another team who presented an interactive web information hub for those interested in learning more about kidney transplants.

The winners received a plaque and year-long championship “bragging rights.”

“It’s refreshing to hear the innovative ideas of students who go beyond conventional approaches,” says Dr. Joe Kim, Co-Director of the Kidney Transplant Program.

Dragons’ Den: innovation amongst students

“Creating an online patient portal will empower our patients to manage their own heath, and help them become our ‘Partners in Care’ – one of the major goals at UHN.”

My Kidney Path, the winning project, aims to improve the kidney transplant evaluation process by decreasing the time for patients from referral to listing for transplant. Typically, patients can spend from six to 12 months in this pre-transplant phase, with this project aiming to cut this time by half.


This in turn would allow the program to do more kidney transplants each year. At present, the program does approximately 160 transplant annually.

The team mapped out a new and cost-effective way of standardizing the process in which patient information is entered into and displayed in the transplant data system. This would help both staff and patients get at-a-glance reports and pinpoint exactly what still needs to be done to complete an assessment. Automatic updates can also be generated, along with explanations of tests and medical terms.

“Patients can be more involved and motivated in their own care if they have the information they need at their fingertips,” says team lead Franz Marie Gumabay, a research assistant in the Student Research Training Program. “We want to make it easy for patients.”

Begun in 2011, the annual Dragons’ Den competition in Healthcare Innovation gives students at various levels – from high school to graduate students – opportunities to work as a team to develop research projects with staff and patients and other organizations that significantly improve the experience of patients in the Multi-Organ Transplant Program. Students must apply to the Research Training Program.

Supervised by Segun Famure, Co-Director of the MOTSRTP, both projects this year were so well received by staff they will continue after the competition. Both developed innovative ways in which to engage and educate patients about the benefits of receiving a kidney transplant from the Multi Organ Transplant Program at TGH.

The Kidney Path project was developed as part of a Master’s Research Project by Sonia Seto, a student in the Biomedical Communications Program at the University of Toronto. ​


Written by UHN News

Principles in Immunology Course

Dear colleagues and program directors,

On Saturday April 9th, 2016  the Toronto Transplant Institute will be offering the Principles in Immunology Course.

We wish to extend an invitation to your fellows, trainees, and other colleagues to participate in these sessions.

The purpose of this event is to provide participants with a solid foundation in immunologic principles that are most relevant to the study of clinical transplantation.  The target audience consists primarily of advanced clinical and research trainees, practicing physicians and allied health clinicians.

There is no cost to register however limited seating is available.   Online live webcast option is available to those located outside the Greater Toronto Area.

To view the schedule and to register for this course, please go to

Please forward this information along to anyone you think might be interested.

Thank you,

Dr. Michael McDonald, MD, FRCPC
Director of Education for the UHN Multi-Organ Transplant Program
Director of Education Toronto Transplant Institute



Getting to the last few steps of the procedure, surgeons (including Dr. Steven McCabe, second from the left) attach the muscles and plan how to suture the skin. (Photo: UHN)​

Dr. Steven McCabe was part of the surgical team that performed the world’s first hand transplant in 1999 in Louisville, Kentucky.

Fast forward 17 years and Dr. McCabe has made the possibility of hand transplants in Canada a reality, leading a multi-disciplinary team of experts to complete the country’s first transplant of the upper limb.

The team at Toronto Western Hospital (TWH) successfully attached the hand and forearm from a donor to a patient who had lost her arm below the elbow in an accident several years ago.

“We are very proud to have successfully performed this forearm and hand transplant procedure,” said Dr. McCabe, Director of TWH’s Hand and Upper Extremity Transplant Program.

“This is a tremendous accomplishment involving many people across several programs, and we are excited to make this treatment possible and available for patients who would benefit from it.”

The procedure lasted approximately 14 hours and involved 18 surgeons of a variety of different surgical disciplines from a number of hospitals.


To protect the privacy and confidentiality of the patient, the donor and their families, the hospital will not be releasing the date of the surgery or any possible identifying details.

“It’s another milestone for our program,” says Dr. Atul Humar, Director of UHN’s Multi-Organ Transplant Program. “With this Canadian first, we are entering another era in transplantation.

“This kind of effort requires not only the expertise of a diverse surgical, medical, and rehabilitation team at UHN, but also a life-changing gift by a tissue and organ donor and his or her family.”

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High School Outreach Initiative (HSOI)

Dear Colleagues:

Happy New Year!  Hope everyone had some quality time with loved ones during the holiday break.  As we embark on a new year, I thought it would be opportune to provide a brief update about an important outreach initiative on behalf of the Toronto Transplant Institute, the High School Outreach Initiative (HSOI).

Many of you may already know that the High School Outreach Initiative (HSOI) started 5 years ago as a unique partnership with Trillium-Gift-of-Life Network (TGLN) and  Health Care Professionals (HCP’s) from the Toronto Transplant Institute (Sick Kids, UHN, St. Mike’s) towards an overall objective of  providing education and awareness of transplantation and organ donation to youth in Toronto high schools. The overarching goal is to increase donor registration in the Greater Toronto Area.  Since the initiative began, 265 presentations have been provided to more than 17,000 GTA high school students.

I am writing now to ensure that you all knew that the HSOI is still going strong – and to let you know how you can support this initiative!

First off –  this year we welcome a new coordinator from the Toronto Transplant Institute – Anna Cocco – who will be working with us to quarterback all invitations and speaking opportunities at High Schools in the GTA.  We know that with Anna’s energy and proximity to us all within the Transplant programs, the opportunities to capitalize on all your expertise will be enhanced.

1) How you can support this initiative – Volunteer to be a HSOI Speaker in 2016!

HCP’s participate as Guest Speakers in classroom presentations and assemblies at secondary schools in the Toronto District School Board (TDSB) or Toronto Catholic District School Board (TCDSB). In previous years TGLN attended the presentations, starting this year they will not be attending presentations, the HCP presenters will now provide information on donation in a newly designed presentation. An organ recipient or donor family will also attend to take part in the presentation, sharing their story, which is an integral aspect of the presentation.

Anyone interested in participating as an HCP presenter will receive training on the 25 minute presentation. Your commitment may be 1-2 presentations over a year, which may require ½ day of your time.

If you are interested in participating, please advise Anna Cocco for tracking –

2) Promote the Initiative to Teachers you know:

We continue to target all Toronto public and Catholic high schools and in doing so we hope to utilize as many Health Care Professional (HCP) volunteers as possible.   Everyone’s help is appreciated in trying to bring the program to new schools in the GTA.  Please find attached a healthcare professional letter that we encourage you to share with any teacher and school contacts you have.

Please contact me if you have any questions related to this important initiative.

Thank you,

Vicky Ng

Chair, HSOI Steering Committee