Operation room staff at the Victoria General Hospital listen to Tony Duke’s double lung transplant story as he visits for BC Transplant’s Operation Popcorn and to give thanks for their work. (Keili Bartlett/News staff)

Transplant recipients thank VGH staff with Operation Popcorn

Organ recipients deliver gifts to Victoria General Hospital in thanks for pre- and post-op care

After years of hospital visits, for transplant recipients Stephen Farmer, Tony Duke and Natalie Williams, this trip to the Victoria General Hospital is different.

This time, they’re here to give back to the people who cared for them and other organ transplant recipients as part of BC Transplant’s Operation Popcorn.

Carrying giant red boxes — topped with a bow and full of popcorn, of course — they visited the ER, Operation Room team, the ICU and the pediatric ICU on Dec. 5 as they made their way through the hospital.

“Whether you’re directly involved or not, somewhere along the line, what you do is either helping me or somebody else. It is appreciated,” Tony Duke, who had a double lung transplant two and a half years ago, told a room of hospital staff. “For many people, it is hard to come and say thank you.”

With him were his wife, Beth Campbell-Duke (who was also his caregiver pre- and post-op), Farmer and Williams.

READ MORE: Victoria transplant advocate Simon Keith hospitalized, needs another heart

Natalie Williams is the youngest in the group. At 21 years old, she lived most of her life waiting for a new liver after she was diagnosed with liver disease as a newborn. Williams was sick for 19 years, but since her transplant last year, she’s become an athlete. She’s currently training for her first triathlon.

Farmer had his liver transplant 14 years ago, and has been a part of the BC Transplant organization for years. He needed a new liver when, skin turning yellow from complications of Hepatitis C, he was near death. His two daughters were eight and 10 years old when Farmer got his transplant, and he’s been able to see them grow up and go off to university.

“We do this every year as a small token of appreciation,” Farmer told a group of more than 40 members of the OR staff.

In the ICU, the director of clinic operations, Sarah Crawford-Bohl, said, ”It’s great to see you all standing here and looking so well. Sometimes we see people for just a brief glimpse when they’re in the intensive care unit. You often don’t hear the rest of the story, so it’s great to have you here.”

Operation Popcorn has been giving back for 27 years. Transplants are done in Vancouver, but both pre- and post-operation care is offered through hospitals on Vancouver Island, including VGH.

“I was lucky enough to get a double lung transplant,” Duke said. “I never thought I would be here to see today, I was that close to going. Really, I was dying… There’s still a bit of recovery I have to do, but it’s fantastic to be alive. I actually feel like I’m a different person since I had the transplant. You value things in a way you didn’t value them before. I’m grateful to the hundreds of people who have been involved in getting me this far along.”

READ MORE: You Are Vital $3.5M campaign launched for new hospital equipment


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Transplant recipients Stephen Farmer, Tony Duke and Natalie Williams thank staff at the Victoria General Hospital for their work as they visit for Operation Popcorn. (Keili Bartlett/News staff)

Transplant recipients Stephen Farmer, Tony Duke and Natalie Williams thank staff at the Victoria General Hospital for their work as they visit for Operation Popcorn. (Keili Bartlett/News staff)

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