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Bancroft family shares their story for Organ Donor Awareness Month

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April is Organ Donor awareness month. My Bancroft Now spoke with a local family who agreed to share a very special story with us. 

When Joan and Bill Easton’s daughter Jenna was born, the first girl in a family with four older brothers, they were told at her one-month check-up that she had a liver disease where the bile ducts didn’t form properly.

Doctors were able to perform a procedure to fix the issue at the time, but the fix was temporary, and Jenna’s parents were told she would eventually need a liver transplant.

“We were quite shocked. I mean, she was beautiful and healthy-looking and then your world gets blown apart” said her mom Joan. “But she thrived and did well”

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While Jenna did have to make periodic trips to Sick Kids Hospital for antibiotic treatments as a kid, by 2019 she had grown up and recently had a son herself, when her health started to go downhill.

“She started not doing well and they (the doctors) said ‘It’s time:her liver is starting to not function very well’”

Jenna was put on the donor list but when a match wasn’t initially found, her family started looking for a live donor as well. Jenna’s older brother Ryan was a match and he volunteered to donate half of his liver to his sister.

“As parents, you’re kind of in shock, because there are two kids going in for major surgery. But she did well and Ryan did well recovering, his liver grew back,” said Joan, continuing, “But it wasn’t long [before] she was having a lot of difficulties”.

Strictures occurred after the surgery, which meant the liver could not function properly. According to Jenna’s parents she went downhill much faster this time and was put on the donor transplant list again, with her spot rapidly being moved up on the list the more her health declined.

According to Joan and Bill, finding a match is complicated;

“The liver must be the same size as the deceased donor. The blood type, all kinds of things factor in. Whether that liver is good for you or not.. so, it’s not an easy find”

Joan said more people had come forward offering to be a live donor but then one night they got a phone call:

“We got a call one evening and all of a sudden we had to be in downtown Toronto in 3 hours.

“They had a match” said Joan, “So it was quite a thing…. We all just kind of cried, a happy cry, but a scared cry. We were just kind of hugging each other and it was like “Wow, this is really happening” said Joan continuing, “She was so sick. It was just very emotional, but she’s doing great”

This was three years ago and Jenna is doing well with her growing family. Joan praised the continuing support of family and friends,

“Her husband, you know, her brothers, her friends. There was a huge impact on all of us, but everyone just pulled together. Jenna has two stepdaughters and two little boys now and a cute little family and it’s just really nice to see them all just supporting Jenna”

She also spoke about Jenna’s brother Ryan, saying she wasn’t sure if he knew how important his role was,.

”You know I don’t think he realizes the extent of what he did, he basically extended her life until there was another donor. This was just all in the timing. And I believe it was meant to be”

According to Quinte Health, one organ and tissue donor can save up to eight lives and enhance the lives of 75 more.

Ryan and Jenna, submitted by Bill Easton
Jenna with her family, submitted by Bill Easton
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