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Thank you for the second chance: Honouring those who gave the gift of life

Denise Schaerer is standing near the Ottawa Hospital General Campus wall

Denise Schaerer received a heart transplant in January 2017, after being diagnosed with non-ischaemic cardiomyopathy, a disease that affects the muscle tissue of the heart.

When Denise Schaerer feels a thumping in her chest, she doesn’t just feel her own heartbeat – she feels someone else’s as well. That’s because this heart was given to her through organ donation, and she feels a great deal of responsibility to protect it.

“Being an organ recipient comes with a huge responsibility,” said Schaerer. “I am caring for another person’s heart. A heart that beats so proudly and gracefully inside my chest.”

The Ottawa Hospital General Campus Wall saying "Gift of Life"

On April 25, Schaerer told her story to more than 300 people whose family members had donated their organs through The Ottawa Hospital and the Trillium Gift of Life Network. The gathering marked the unveiling of two new Trillium Gift of Life Network Organ Donation Memorial Walls, honouring those who had consented to organ donation, and their family members who contributed to the process.

Schaerer received her gift of life in January 2017, after being diagnosed with Giant Cell Myocarditis, a disease that makes it difficult for the heart to fill with and pump blood. She was told that a transplant was her only option and, after a very anxious wait for her and her family, Schaerer received the transplant she so badly needed.

“It was a day that a father, son, husband and friend said his last goodbye, and gave others a second chance at hello,” Schaerer said during the April 25 event. The man who donated his heart also saved the lives of five other people.

Her story resonated deeply with those attending the event to honour their loved ones. Whether the patients registered to be a donor before their passing or their family gave consent for the donation on their behalf, all those honoured deserved to be recognized. To acknowledge their contributions, the Critical Care Physicians and Division of Nephrology supported constructing the two memorial walls, where patients’ names are now displayed.

These memorial walls can be seen at the Civic and General campuses, outside the respective Intensive Care Units, in honour of those who gave the ultimate gift: the gift of life.

“Thank you for the second chance,” said Schaerer.


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