Transplant Tales

April 26, 2012

Eva Gusnowski

It’s no doubt that during Canada’s National Organ and Tissue Donor Awareness Week, you have thought to yourself, “transplants are rad.” It’s also blazingly apparent that after reading about HLA haplotypes and how much mice hearts hate Enya, you’ve probably gone and had an extra look at some amazing transplant stories. So I thought that I would share with all of you some amazing transplant stories that I have found.

great white shark; corneal transplant; eva gusnowski


Just when you thought it couldn’t get any more awesome, the shark does it again. Not only are they extremely resistsant to cancer and can continue to swim while sleeping, but the shark cornea can be used in human corneal transplants. Just add this to the list of reasons why we should be preserving the lives and habitats of nature’s perfect predator.


In 2010, a 9-year-old girl in China had her hand severed in an accident. However, the severed hand and arm tissue were too damaged to try and immediately replace her hand immediately after it occurred. Instead, doctors grafted the hand onto her right leg in order to give it and her arm time to heal properly. After 3 months, they returned the hand to her arm and she was able to move her wrist. Although she will require further surgeries and physiotherapy to improve function, this ingenuity saved her hand.


face transplant, the guardian, science in seconds, eva gusnowski

Earlier this year, the most extensive face transplant in the world was performed on Richard Norris. This patient damaged most of his face in a gun accident 15 years ago, and lost his teeth, nose and part of his tongue. Although he retained his eyesight and taste, he lost his sense of smell. Aside from having to wear a mask most of the time, this patient had to undergo numerous reconstructive surgery attempts that were altogether unsuccessful at regaining his facial structure. Face transplants are in and of themselves a completely different matter from just signing your organ donor card. In order to have a “face donation,” the donor’s family must consent to the use of, well, the face. This face transplant recipient was given a new upper and lower jaw, teeth, part of the tongue and all facial tissue extending from the base of the neck up to the scalp. Three days after the transplant, this transplant recipient was able to smell for the first time in 15 years, and a week later was brushing his teeth and was shaving. Incredible.


Cyrus McEachern, science in seconds, eva gusnowski

Last, but certainly not least, I want to introduce you all to the story of Eva Markvoort. Eva was a cystic fibrosis (CF) patient living in Vancouver. For those of you who don’t know, CF is a recessive mutation that predominantly affects the lungs, preventing the mucus from being fluid-like enough to be cleared from the lungs. Recurrent infections lead to scarring and fibrosis of the lungs, which in addition to the build-up of mucus makes it extremely hard to breathe. There is no cure, only the hope for a lung transplant. Eva started a Live Journal account under the name 65_Redroses where she spoke about what she was going through, including all of the ups and downs of her life. She was able to share these thoughts with other CF patients and other people living with chronic illnesses, who understood what she was going through. This online journal chronicled her struggles, her triumphs and her life going through and ultimately rejecting a double lung transplant, and her living on the lung transplant list for a second time in her life. Two of her friends filmed a candid documentary of Eva’s struggle to receive a double lung transplant and life with CF, also called 65_RedRoses in honor of Eva’s Live Journal Blog. Eva was a big proponent for CF research and organ donation, and it is her image, with her blazing hair and lips that graces BC Transplant’s posters for organ donation. Losing her battle with CF on March 27, 2010, Eva continues to provide hope for those who watch and read the story of her life, providing an outlet for fears and a commonality and support that has stretched beyond her short years. Having read through this journal, it is an amazing look into her world and such an incredible and touching story. I highly recommend learning more about Eva’s life and the message that she continues to represent.

“Live life. Pass it on.”


Cyrus McEachern, BC transplant, eva gusnowski, science in seconds



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