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‘I’m touched’: Grand Chief Stewart Phillip optimistic about response to kidney donor appeal

Grand Chief Stewart Phillip, President, Union of the B.C. Indian Chiefs addresses a news conference in Vancouver, B.C., Jan. 15, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward

One of the most prominent Indigenous voices in British Columbia is reaching out for help.

Grand Chief Stewart Phillip of the Union of B.C. Indian Chiefs is in need of a kidney transplant, and has launched a public appeal looking for a living donor.

“Some of you may know that I have chronic kidney disease. Unfortunately, it has gotten worse over time,” wrote Phillip in an open letter.

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Phillip told Global News his kidney function had dropped below 10 per cent, and that he’s scheduled to begin dialysis in Penticton later this month.

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He’s looking for a kidney donor with the same blood type: A+. He said, so far, about 200 people have registered to be tested as a potential donor, and about 6,000 people have inquired about how to help.

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“I’m touched. I’m moved. And certainly optimistic that, you know, that we’re going to get through this,” he said.

Phillip, a member of the Syilx Nation, is known as an outspoken advocate on the issues of Indigenous rights and title.

He served as elected chief of the Penticton Indian Band for 16 years and remains Chair of the Okanagan Nation Alliance.

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He said after decades of advocating on behalf of others, asking for help was difficult.

“It was very emotional,” he said.

“You know what they say, the three hardest things in life to say are, ‘I’m sorry,’ ‘I love you,’ and ‘I need help.'”

Phillip added that he hopes his public appeal will also bring awareness to the ongoing need for organ donors in the province.

Given the length of the donation waitlist in B.C., he says his best chance of finding a match is from a living donor.

Anyone who believes they may be a match can find out more here.

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