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Toronto kidney recipient celebrates 40-year anniversary

Toronto kidney recipient celebrates 40 year anniversary
WATCH ABOVE: Tom Mitrovski of Toronto is celebrating 40 years after his kidney transplant. Mitrovski was told he’d survive five to 10 years only. Tom Hayes reports.

When 72-year-old Tom Mitrovski’s kidneys failed, he thought he had five-to-10 years to live. That’s what he was told 40 years ago.

“I was so tired. I didn’t understand,” said Mitrovski thinking back to the early 1970s.

Mitrovski said he was told by his doctor that his kidneys were failing. He would undergo three years of dialysis before a donor kidney became available in 1979. Nov. 27 marks the 40th anniversary of his new kidney and noted a special attachment has formed.

READ MORE: Here’s how organ donation works in Canada

“I named my kidney Gerry, so we are Tom and Gerry,” said Mitrovski while laughing.

Dr. Jeffrey Zaltsman, the head of nephrology at St Michael’s Hospital, said Mitrovski’s success is remarkable.

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“He’s in the top-90th percentile for kidney transplants. He’s done well,” he said.

Zaltsman said most people don’t realize how many people can be helped by one donor.

READ MORE: World Kidney Day raises awareness for kidney health

“Heart, lungs, liver, kidneys, pancreas, intestines, cornea, skin, heart valves, bones — as many as 30 people can be helped,” he said.

Ontario has experienced an increase in donors since Mitrovski was out on the list. Back in the 1970s organ donation in Ontario averaged around the 30 per cent compared to 60 per cent today.

Mitrovski, who came to Canada at 19 from Yugoslavia, now spends a few days a month volunteering at ServiceOntario talking with potential donors and helping them sign up.

He said he wishes he could talk with his donor and give them a “heartfelt thanks.”

“You gave me life. You gave me time see my children grow. You gave me time to see my grandchildren,” said Mitrovski.

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Anyone interested in becoming a donor can sign up at http://www.beadonor.ca.