Manitoba

Heart transplant 'gift of life,' says Manitoba's 1st recipient

A Manitoba woman who received the province's first heart transplant 30 years ago is urging others to register as organ and tissue donors.

Maureen Baraneiski received her heart transplant in 1983

Manitoba woman who received the province's first heart transplant 30 years ago is urging others to register as organ and tissue donors. 2:12

A Manitoba woman who received the province's first heart transplant 30 years ago is urging others to register as organ and tissue donors.

Maureen Baraneiski says organ donation has changed not only her life, but the lives of two of her children, who suffered from the same heart condition she had.

"I've had 30 years. I've seen my daughter married. I've seen my grandchildren be born. I'm a great grandmother of two," she told CBC News on Monday.

Baraneiski received her new heart in 1983. At the time, she was suffering from cardiomyopathy, a disease that usually leads to heart failure.

"The muscles of the heart are turning to fibre, and they swell up and they just don't function," said her husband, Chuck Baraneiski.

Before she underwent the transplant surgery, Maureen Baraneiski's heart functioned at just three per cent.

Ten days after the procedure, she was well enough to dance with her husband.

Donor was 18 years old

The donor of Baraneiski's heart was Walter Langeveld, who was 18 years old when he died. The couple holds a special place for the young man and his family.

"That's what Walter gave me. He gave me the gift of life," she said.

Added her husband, "He's the fellow that changed … not only our life, but five other people's lives."

Later on, both of the Baraneiskis' children needed heart transplants, as they shared the same condition as their mother.

Maureen Baraneiski said their daughter received a transplant and lived an extra 16 years, while their son did not get one.

"We lost Sharon in Oct. 5, '06, and on May 1 is … a year ago that we've lost Stephen," she said.

Desperate need for organ donors

Dr. Faisal Siddiqui of the Health Sciences Centre in Winnipeg says there is a desperate need for donated organs in Manitoba.

However, less than one per cent of Manitobans have signed up as donors on SignUpForLife.ca, the province's online organ and tissue donor registry.

"If it gets to the point of donation, a lot of their families don't even know that their loved one wanted to donate as part of their gift," he said.

Donor information that's stored in the online registry can be immediately accessed by doctors, Siddiqui said.

"There's a lot of people who are living with gifts given to them, and they're able to live long and productive lives," he said.