Seven years ago, a double-lung transplant saved Kurt Penner's life.
Now he's using his second wind to carry the Olympic Torch.
WOODSTOCK, ON, Dec. 24 /CNW/ - Kurt Penner's belated Christmas gift will be seeing his breath in the cold winter air alongside the Olympic flame.
"Seven years ago, I was days away from dying of emphysema," explains Penner. But at the eleventh hour, Penner, now 60, was the recipient of a double-lung transplant through the Trillium Gift of Life Network (TGLN).
He'll be carrying the 2010 Olympic Torch through the streets of Woodstock, Ontario on the morning of December 27 thanks to that donation.
Today, approximately 1,700 people in Ontario are waiting for a life-saving transplant. One organ and tissue donor can save up to eight lives and enhance as many as 75 others.
"Kurt's participation in the Olympic Torch Relay is a real Christmas miracle," says Frank Markel, President and CEO of Trillium Gift of Life Network. "It shows what the gift of organ donation can do."
Before his illness, Penner was an avid hiker and cyclist. With his new lungs, Penner found his second wind. Four years ago, he participated in the London, Ontario World Transplant Games, finishing 16th in a 25-kilometre bike race and winning the gold medal in lawn bowling. He also won medals in bowling and shot put at the Canadian Transplant Games in Edmonton and Windsor.
Now, he'll close out this year as one of 12,000 Canadians who are taking part in the Olympic Torch's 45,000-kilometre journey across Canada. Over 90 per cent of Canadians will be able to see the flame as it's passed from hand-to-hand.
"The symbolism of passing something as life-giving as the light of a torch from one person to another isn't lost on me, believe me," Penner says. "It's a gift I unwrap every day of the year."
You can register your consent to donate your organs and tissue by visiting your local Service Ontario Health Card Services - OHIP office or outreach centre where you renew your health card. You can also register by downloading and filling out a Gift of Life Consent Form from www.giftoflife.on.ca and mailing it to the address on the form.
Even if you've already signed your donor card, please also register your decision so that this information is accessible at the time of your death and talk to your family about your decision.
For more details on Trillium Gift of Life Network, please visit www.giftoflife.on.ca. You can also call 416-363-4001 or toll free 1-800-263-2833.
Trillium Gift of Life Network is a not-for-profit agency of the Government of Ontario and is responsible for planning, promoting, coordinating and supporting organ and tissue donation across Ontario and improving the system so that more lives can be saved.
Please note: The Trillium Gift of Life Network offices will be closed during the holiday season from December 25-28, 2009 and from January 1-3, 2010.
SOURCE Trillium Gift of Life Network
For further information: For further information: Madelyn Herschorn, Trillium Gift of Life Network, (p) (416) 619-2350, (m) (416) 526-8035, (e) email@example.com