The billionaire owner of the Ottawa Senators, 55-year-old Eugene Melnyk, is on the road to recovery after receiving a live liver donation, donated by an anonymous donor earlier this week. The Senators tweeted earlier today with the hashtag #BeADonor that the Melnyk’s donor was partly motivated to give such a generous gift so a healthy Melnyk could bring “the Stanley Cup home to Ottawa”.
The transplant took place on Tuesday at the Toronto General Hospital, part of the University Health Network.
Public Call for Help
Five days earlier, on Thursday morning, May 14th, the Ottawa Senator’s organization put out a press release and then held a news conference, making the public call for help. The Senators were asking for volunteers willing to make a live liver donation for their owner. Melnyk has been sick since the middle of January, and for the past three weeks, he’d been hospitalized, because of his failing liver.
Melnyk’s condition was “very serious” and a live donation of a suitably matched liver was determined by his doctors as the only course of action. Members of Melnyk’s family, and close friends, had all been screened and no one had been found to be a suitable match. Time was of the essence.
The press release explained that the donor found to be a match for the ailing Melnyk would be asked to donate a piece of his or her liver, around 20% of it, but it would regenerate itself back to its normal size within within two or three months. There would be risks, as with all operations, and in a fact sheet for potential donors, the risk of death is estimated to be 0.15% with left lobe donation and 0.30% with right lobe donation.
“The liver is a highly resilient organ that can regenerate itself within 90-120 days and return back to its normal size,” said Dr. Atul Humar, the Medical Director of the University Health Network’s Multi-Organ Transplant Program. “Any healthy adult between the ages of 18-55 years could be a potential live liver donor. To date, over 600 live liver donor transplants have been performed at the University Health Network. All donors have returned to normal lives with no restrictions.”
Information Line Flooded
The Senators set up an information line that was flooded with inquiries and received over 2,000 in the first two days. As well, the Toronto General Hospital received over 500 donor application forms from prospective donors and the screening process began over the weekend on a shortlist of 12 potential donors. A press release went out on Saturday, saying that Melnyk’s “health remains stable for the time being and he is in great spirits buoyed by the outpouring of public support.”
On Monday, the Senators released a statement from Eugene Melnyk himself, reflecting on how important good health is. Here’s a portion of that release:
The past few months have presented me with the greatest challenge of my life and up until most recently, it has been very personal and private.
Over the last few weeks, my declining health became considerably more critical and urgent. During this time, my family and a few very close friends have worked tirelessly to help save my life.
Their incredible efforts helped to identify numerous potential live liver donors, but in the end, none were deemed to be medically suitable. We had simply exhausted all of our options and they convinced me we had to reach out for more help.
The act of helping one another is a powerful thing. You have lifted my spirits, and in the process have given me all the strength I need at this difficult time. Thank you from the bottom of my heart.
By Tuesday, a match had been found and Melnyk and the anonymous donor underwent a successful surgery. Both were resting comfortably.
This morning, the Melnyk family released a statement saying that Eugene Melnyk’s overall condition had improved dramatically over the past 36 hours, and praised the anonymous donor for his/her gift:
(Y)ou are an incredible person and we truly admire your unselfish act of kindness and courage to be a living liver donor. We are so grateful to you and to your support system of family and close friends who have helped you take this brave journey to save Eugene’s life. You remain in our thoughts and prayers as we wish you a speedy and full recovery.
More Good News
In Ontario alone, there are 1,200 people with failing livers on the liver transplant list. With the Ottawa Senator’s public call for help, the awareness of live liver donors is hitting the media spotlight, and to date, 20 of Melnyk’s donor applicants have agreed to donate their livers for others on that waiting list. In the meantime, the Senators have tweeted out that although the live liver donor for Melnyk wished to remain anonymous, he or she was partly motivated by wanting to bring “the Stanley Cup home to Ottawa”
Mr. Melnyk’s donor asked to remain anonymous but noted that “bringing the Stanley Cup home to Ottawa” was part of the motivation. #BeADonor
— Ottawa Senators (@Senators) May 21, 2015
Despite the outpouring of support, there are many critics of Melnyk’s call for help. For example, an article in The National Post said ethical questions were being raised because of Melnyk’s celebrity status, getting a donor with the ability of shouting the loudest.
If you’re in Canada and would like to #BeADonor, please visit http://www.beadonor.ca.