BC Transplant volunteers delivering special boxes of popcorn to the team at Lions Gate Hospital during the 27th annual Operation Popcorn campaign.
For many Vancouver Coastal Health (VCH) staff, the holiday season doesn't kick off until they have a visit from some very thankful people.
For 27 years, transplant recipients, donor families and living organ donors have celebrated the holiday season in B.C. by delivering festive boxes of popcorn to hospital teams across the province. It's their way of saying thanks to the health professionals who support the organ donation and transplant journey for patients and families.
Organized by BC Transplant, Operation Popcorn teams visited the ORs, EDs, and ICUs at Vancouver General, Richmond and Lions Gate Hospitals, sharing stories of how organ donation has made a difference in their lives and thanking the health professionals around our organization that help make this incredible gift a reality.
Carry Feldstein received a life-saving double-lung transplant at VGH four years ago after his battle with Cystic Fibrosis made it all but impossible to breathe. Thanks to an organ donor, he now has a second chance at life — one he can spend with his twin daughters and living life to the fullest. A Richmond resident, Cary visited Richmond Hospital last week with living liver donor Debbie Bielech to thank staff and deliver some delicious treats.
“Operation Popcorn is an opportunity for us to thank you for all that you do," he said during the delivery. “I don't know where my lungs came from — it may have been from this hospital — so I'm so grateful for all you do in caring for people like me."
At VGH, where B.C.'s first organ transplant (a kidney) was performed 50 years ago, Operation Popcorn is a welcome visit for the critical care and VGH perioperative teams, who both celebrate the gift of life and support families dealing with the loss of a loved one.
In 2017, VGH performed 56 percent — 268 — of all solid organ transplants in B.C., and this year the hospital is on track to perform even more life-saving surgeries.
“The work is difficult and demanding in more ways than one," says Andrea Bisaillon, regional director, surgery, “but we work together, across all areas of the system, to ensure everything works smoothly for our recipients and to honour the donors and their families."
Jessie Rodrigue, operations director, surgical services, agrees. “The effort behind organ transplants involves many departments, including Patient Flow & Access, Medical Imaging, Laboratory & Immunology and, of course, the Transplant Pre- and Post-Assessment Clinics and Solid Organ Transplant (SOT) unit at VGH.
While Lions Gate Hospital (LGH) doesn't perform transplants, its emergency (ED), intensive care unit (ICU) and operating room (OR) staff play a role in facilitating organ donation, and in supporting patients pre- and post-transplant.
Double lung transplant recipient and North Vancouver resident Margaret Benson says that Operation Popcorn is her favourite Christmas tradition because it is one way of giving back. “I am so honoured and grateful to be able to thank the incredible staff who support organ donation in BC," notes Margaret. “I received my 'gift of life' 19 years ago, in December 1999, and I am so appreciative, not only to the health care professionals who have supported me on this journey, but also to my donor and their family for saving my life. I like to say, 'Thank you from the bottom of my new lungs.'"
LGH emergency doctor Shannon Chestnut has taken part in Operation Popcorn for nine years alongside Margaret and is a passionate advocate for organ donation. “I look forward to Operation Popcorn every year. It is an honor to be able to take this group of incredible people around the hospital – organ recipients who are living amazing full and healthy lives because they were able to receive a life-saving organ. They are grateful and inspiring," says Dr. Chestnut. “I think it's a great way to highlight the importance of organ donation and to encourage the conversation."
Margaret and Dr. Chestnut along with heart transplant recipient Rob, and liver transplant recipients Susan and Kathy brought smiles – and more than a few tears – to LGH ED, ICU and OR staff with their deliveries of popcorn, and sincere thanks and appreciation.
More than 600 people in B.C. are waiting for life-saving transplants. This holiday season give the gift of life by registering your decision for organ donation at transplant.bc.ca. Once you've registered, speak with your family about your wishes — it's a conversation that could save lives.