Going the distance Step by Step

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Two-time liver recipient walks from Toronto to Kingston to raise awareness

George Marcello spoke on Tuesday to raise awareness about organ donation.
George Marcello spoke on Tuesday to raise awareness about organ donation.
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George Marcello has come a long way to talk about organ donations.

The two-time liver recipient and founder of Step by Step, a group founded to increase awareness about organ and tissue donations in Canada, walked from Toronto to Kingston to raise awareness about organ donations. He walked into the JDUC at 12:30 p.m. on Tuesday. “I know what it’s like going through this. It’s a very desperate time and situation,” Marcello said.

“Our organ donor rate is one of the lowest in the world—we’re still at the LP stage … and we have to bring it up to the iPod stage.” In 1992, Marcello found out that he had terminal liver disease. Three years later, he received a liver transplant that saved his life, but because of donor anonymity legislation he could never thank those responsible for giving him his liver. Instead, he tried to thank all Canadians while raising awareness about the importance of organ donation.

In June 2000, Marcello began a 769-day walk across Canada. Now, after a second liver transplant, Marcello is walking from Toronto to Ottawa. Accompanying Marcello were Sherry and Sarit Kind. Their mother Suzi is waiting for a liver transplant, and the sisters came to help Marcello raise awareness about the need for organ donation.

Sherry Kind said the current organ donation system isn’t working. “You might lose your card, it’s not a good way—people might not be alerted that you’re a donor,” she said. Daniel Brodlieb, ArtSci ’07 and resident of the Queen’s chapter of Step by Step, said the donation rate in Canada is only nine per cent—much lower than several other countries such as Spain. Brodlieb said the best alternative is an optout system, in which every citizen’s name is automatically placed on an organ donor list and people are given the opportunity to opt out if they so choose. This year, Step by Step will be running a simulation of the opt-out program at Queen’s—the first experiment of its kind in Canada. Students will be notified that they are going to be hypothetical organ donors. “Obviously we can’t make them actual donors, but we’re going to tell them to take it really seriously, because this program could actually be ut in place in the next 10 years,” Brodlieb said. “If the results are in our favour, if the results show that this can work on a diverse campus of young Canadians, we will show that this system can be credible.” Students can register to participate in the simulation at 4000lives.org.

—With files from Gloria Er-Chua

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