Public appeal: I don’t need money — I need a liver!

Van Dusen photo, Nation Valley News

Winchester woman requires organ donation

Tom Van Dusen
Nation Valley News

WINCHESTER — Tina VanBreugel is hoping someone, even a total stranger, will step forward and save her life.

Van Breugel needs a new liver in order to keep going… and her options are limited. Among friends and family, they’ve pretty much been exhausted. The latest family member to be tested was her 17-year-old daughter Adrianna who wasn’t a match.

As for the province’s liver transplant list, the formula used doesn’t give the Winchester resident a very high rating. While it’s still possible that she’s a perfect fit for a donated liver and moves up the list last-minute, it’s a long shot!

What can VanBreugel offer in return for the gift of a liver? Only the reward of saving a life! A donor would give up 70 per cent of a healthy liver, with the remaining organ expected to fully regenerate over several weeks; in a successful procedure, the recipient’s portion would also fully develop over a six-month recuperation period.

The transfer would occur in Toronto with the donor’s expenses covered, VanBreugel indicates. Clearly, there’s nothing to be gained financially… only her lasting gratitude!

It’s challenging to match a liver recipient with a donor. Various criteria are applied starting with blood type (A+ in VanBreugel’s case), body mass and other considerations.

She has nowhere else to turn but to the public. She says a social media campaign is being planned to outline her plight. Fundraising isn’t part of it at this point because she’ll only incur extra costs if she’s lucky enough to get the gift of life and go to Toronto: “I don’t need money… I need a liver!”

She has no idea how long she has left. In fact, the prognosis two years ago when she became ill was six months to a year, an outcome she’s pleased to have surpassed. On the other hand, she feels like she’s living on borrowed time.

Chatting in the yard of the Fred Street home where she lives with her parents and sister, VanBreugel makes no attempt to disguise what put her in the position she’s in… she drank herself there!

“With many people in my situation, it’s cirrhosis,” she states, allowing that it was caused by too much alcohol consumption over too many years. She admits to being an alcoholic and receives AA support on a regular basis.

Stage 4 liver disease (the last stage) has been wreaking havoc on VanBreugel physically: She lost about half of her previous 200 pound body weight, her muscles are degenerating, she needs a cane or walker to go any distance, she hardly sleeps, and once a week she must attend Ottawa Hospital to have several pints of pent-up body fluid flushed from her stomach.

A Personal Support Worker in a local long-term care residence for much of her career, she now needs the support of her parents and other family members. Mother of three children, VanBreugel and her husband are separated but remain friends.

“It’s funny… as soon as I quit drinking two years ago, I got sick. Maybe I should have never stopped!” She clarifies that she’s joking.

Update: 

If interested in becoming a donor, please follow the instructions here for next steps.

Heather Badenoch, who says she’s a volunteer with the transplant centre in Toronto, reached out to NVN to clarify that VanBreugel’s blood type means “she can most likely receive a donor with type A+, A-, O+ or O-. The positive or negative doesn’t matter, and O is a universal donor.”

Badenoch says that she was herself a living liver donor who gave at the Toronto General Hospital three years ago.

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