My name is Shirley Hirsh, and on a bitterly cold evening in January of 1998 at the age of 53 years old I had a massive heart attack and was brought to the hospital. I had my husband and daughter by my side who was in her 2nd year of medical school at the time.

I remember saying, “I’m having a heart attack!”  Everyone surrounding me agreed and nodded.  Then I said “I’m going to die”, but this time no one answered me.

My family was told that I could be kept alive on support for 48 hours.  My only chance of survival was a heart transplant.  Dr. Alan Spanier got me placed as number one on the transplant list as I was the sickest in Canada at that time.  By a huge miracle and much prayer, a heart became available and I was transferred to the Royal Victoria Hospital of the MUHC in a snow storm in the middle of the night.

I woke up on Sunday hearing a voice saying “You’re fine.  You’ve had a heart transplant”.  It was Dr. Benoit De Varennes, my surgeon, speaking.  “I had a WHAT?”  I croaked out.

And so I was thrown into the world of transplantation.  January 25, 2018 will be 20 years for me!  To this day I remain beyond grateful to the Transplant team at the MUHC.

Join me this year at the 19th annual Celebration of Life. Click here for tickets.

My name is Johnny Maiorino, and I was diagnosed with diabetes at the age of nine. As a young boy, it was difficult to adjust to a new lifestyle that included daily injections. Diabetes does not follow rules, it is a rebellious disease. After 25 years of insulin injections, blood tests and a dietary-restricted lifestyle, the insulin I was taking was not helping me anymore like it used to.  The disease started damaging my kidneys, affecting my nervous system, and I temporarily lost my eye sight which was restored with several eye surgeries. I kept doing blood tests and more blood tests hoping for good results, but I was not well. My endocrinologist told me that I would not be getting better, but would in fact be getting  a lot worse in the near future. This is when he told me that I could be a candidate for a pancreas transplant.  Before that talk with my doctor, I had never heard of transplantation. I never thought something like this could be possible.

After discussing it with my wife, we decided to get more information. Having three young children—aged two, five, and seven—it was important to get as much information as possible. After a thorough explanation from the transplant team I was put on a list and not too long after, I received a phone call at home to come to the RVH for my surgery. It was a Sunday morning, June 29, 2003.

My life changed that morning; although it was a long road to recovery, I am living a better life now. When I first learned how transplantation could—and did—save my life, my diabetes was getting the best of me. It’s been 14 years now that I have lived with my transplant. 14 blessed years with my family and friends, growing together and seeing my three girls grow up into women at the ages of 17, 22, and 24, all while sharing beautiful memories.

    – Johnny Maiorino

Click here to purchase tickets to the 19th annual Celebration of Life.

I’m Rosa Shields, and I was diagnosed in 1974 as having chronic kidney disease. The only option or treatment available was dialysis or a kidney transplant. In October of 1981 I went on dialysis. However, while living in Toronto, I received news that there was a match and I was scheduled for a kidney transplant on August 26, 1982. This kidney lasted until December 1991. I went back on dialysis and was told that this time I needed a kidney and liver transplant. I was not doing well and deteriorating rapidly.

Finally on January 11, 1994 I got a liver and kidney transplant at Royal Victoria Hospital performed by Dr. Jean Tchervenkov, Dr. Jeffrey Barkun and Dr. Christo (liver) and Dr Knorr (kidney).

The first year I spent it mostly in and out of the hospital. In November of 1994 things got better and I have been living a complete and happy life since.

I began volunteering at the Royal Victoria Hospital in 1995 and since 1998 I have been organizing the Celebration of Life event to raise funds and awareness in transplantation for the McGill University Health Centre.

Join me this year at the 19th annual Celebration of Life. Click here for more information.

Thank you,
Rosa Shields