York’s Rob Marks, the kind of guy who could light up a room, got five extra years of life before his untimely death last fall thanks to the generosity of a double lung donor, his grieving mom says.
The eldest of four children, Marks’ battles in life started the day he was born with the discovery of a club foot, Colleen Donovan said.
Despite many illnesses, he was misdiagnosed until he was a teenager.
“Despite his ongoing illnesses, he loved and excelled at skateboarding, bike riding and competitive hockey,” Donovan said in an email to The Guardian.
“At the age of 16, we were devastated to learn that he had cystic fibrosis. The damage to his lungs was already extensive.”
Saying her son was blessed with charm, humour and an indomitable spirit, Donovan said he pursued activities he could enjoy without struggling to breathe – everything related to cars, music, poker and movies.
On Feb. 25. 2005, Marks received a successful double lung transplant.
“His recovery was remarkable and miraculous. He was elated to be able to breathe again and for five years, he lived life to the fullest and had fun making up for lost time,” Donovan said.
“He loved life! He exercised vigorously, lifted weights, skated socialized, laughed, danced and did many of the things that cystic fibrosis had previously prevented him from doing.”
Sadly, Marks was diagnosed in 2010 with Hodgkin’s lymphoma, a type of cancer.
Although he beat the disease, his lungs “took a terrible beating” from the treatment and he was put back on the transplant list on the condition he remain cancer-free for a year, Donovan said.
Unfortunately, Marks died at the age of 31 last Sept. 16 before receiving another transplant.
Donovan hopes sharing her son’s story will encourage people to become organ donors.
Her plea comes a week after the provincial agency responsible for managing the system called attention to low registration rates in the Greater Toronto Area,
The GTA has a lower percentage of registered donors than any region in Ontario, according to the Ontario Trillium Gift of Life Network.
With only 10 per cent of York residents registering to be organ donors, the community has one of the worst rates in the province.
Just over 66,000 Ontario residents, or 22 per cent, have agreed to donate their organs and tissues after death by registering at www.BeADonor.ca
More than 1,500 people in Ontario are on a waiting list for an organ.
On average, one of them dies every three days, Gift of Life president Ronnie Gavsie said.
One donor can save up to eight lives and improve the lives of as many as 75 others.
As many as one in four Ontario residents mistakenly believe they are registered donors because they have signed a paper donation card, but those cards are often ineffective because they can’t be located when needed, Gavsie said.
Also, families are much more likely to agree to donate a loved one’s organs if they know the person has taken the time to register as a donor, she added.
Donovan knows the difference organ donation can make to recipients and their families.
“No words can ever express our gratitude for the unselfish gift that the donor’s family gave to Rob during their own time of grief,” she said.
“This selfless family gave Rob five phenomenal, energetic, years filled with socializing, laughing, dancing, exercising, living and breathing. Losing Rob was extremely difficult but knowing that he had five happy, healthy years definitely provided some comfort.”
For more information about organ donation or to register, visit www.BeADonor.ca