Roger KnoxVernon Morning Star
Amanda Poch thought the reason she looked yellow was because of the old fluorescent lighting in her Vancouver apartment.
Her parents noticed her yellow skin tone when she visited their Port Moody home at Christmas in 2000, and insisted their daughter go to the hospital.
Poch, who said she “wasn’t an alcoholic, nor had she injected herself with a dirty needle,” was diagnosed with autoimmune chronic hepatitis, a liver disease where, she said, “a person’s immune system misreads messages from the body, and decides the liver is a foreign object and tries to kill it.”
Six years later, the liver disease had Poch on the ropes.
She was admitted to hospital with “unreal abdominal pain,” the result of her liver failing.
“I had less than five per cent of my liver functioning and I wasn’t on the organ transplant list,” said Poch, who shared her story at Armstrong and Vernon councils this week. She fell into a liver-induced coma and had basically six hours to live.
“My family gathered around me,” said Poch, 37, who lives in Port Moody. “They were advised there was a liver on the way but if it wasn’t compatible, I was not going to make it through the evening.”
Thanks to a 76-year-old organ donor, Poch had – and continues to enjoy – a new lease on life.
This year marks the 10th anniversary of Poch’s liver transplant. It’s a milestone for her and a reminder to always honour her donor with what she can do with her new life.
“I am still standing, still strong, still passionate about liver disease, organ donation and transplantation,” said Poch. “That’s what has given me the ability to love and live life to the fullest every day.”
Poch, visiting Armstrong for the first time, is on her Live Then Give tour (www.livethengive.ca). She made stops in Falkland and Coldstream as well during her time in the North Okanagan. An administrative contract employee, Poch is devoting 2016 as the year of travelling around the province to get the word out about organ donation sign-ups.
“My goal is to raise 10,000 new registrations, either yes or no,” said Poch.
She told Armstrong council their city has one of the best rates in B.C. for community organ donation registration – 50 per cent. She’d like to challenge the city to see registration reach 70 per cent.
“Everyone knows there are people having transplants and organs are failing,” said Poch. “It’s just a matter of getting people to start talking about it in our communities and in our homes with our families to make it a common conversation.”
More than 95 per cent of British Columbians support the concept of organ donation yet according to Poch, only 20 per cent are currently registered.
“With more than 250 people dying every year while waiting for their organs, this percentage is unacceptable,” she said.
Poch never got to meet the person who gave her the gift of life. The organ donor was deceased. She did reach out via letter to the person’s family six months, a year and five years after the transplant. She never got a reply.
“I understand they’re grieving, and I get that,” she said.
There is a link on Poch’s website where you can sign up to be an organ donor, as well as make any financial contribution.
A friend’s child who died at 14 was an organ donor and at least a half-dozen people benefitted from his organs.
Another North Okanagan woman just saw her oldest child receive the gift of a new kidney.
It’s a personal decision, of course, but it only takes a few minutes to fill out an organ donor form. It could help save somebody’s life. Somebody close to you. Maybe, like Poch, even a complete stranger.