Matt Lepp with cousin and kidney donor Stephanie Lepp Hickey.

Gratitude to advocacy

When Lepp needed someone to give him part of their liver, Stephanie stepped up, quite possibly saving his life

By Jessica Wallace
Kamloops This Week

Matt Lepp is grateful for Stephanie.

She’s the reason he’s back to work at Treetop Flyers and why he’s able to make summer plans to go rock climbing and do other outdoor  adventures.

Because, when Lepp needed someone to give him part of their liver, Stephanie stepped up, quite possibly saving his life.

“You can’t even describe it,” Lepp, 28, told the newspaper. “It’s such a brave and selfless thing that someone would do for someone else.

“I’m just grateful forever.”

When Lepp was 18, he was diagnosed with primary sclerosing cholangitis – a slowly progressing disease that affects the ability for bile ducts to carry digestive liquid from the liver to the small intestine — and lived without symptoms for nearly a decade.

In 2006, Lepp moved to Kamloops from Saskatchewan to study tourism at Thompson Rivers University before he and others started the ziplining company in Chase.

Symptoms of the disease began to surface last spring.

It started with feelings of weakness, decreased energy and weight loss.

The once seemingly dormant disease progressed to infections that landed him in the hospital.

The doctor said he would need a transplant because, Lepp said, he was “basically in liver failure.”

With high demand – more than 1,600 Canadians are added to organ wait lists each year, according to the Canadian Transplant Association – and a long wait list, Lepp’s doctor recommended he find a living donor, someone who would willingly donate part of their organ directly to him.

“In my case, my MELD score [which determines one’s place on the transplant list] didn’t reflect how sick I was,” Lepp said.

“Basically, doctors told me I wouldn’t have lived long enough to receive a donated organ.”

Several family members were tested and cousin Stephanie Lepp Hickey – who Lepp said is more like a sibling and who is also in her mid-20s – was a match.

She flew into Edmonton’s University of Alberta Hospital from her home in Dallas, Tex., to donate 70 per cent of her liver to Lepp.

The major surgery took Stephanie out of work for a month and left Lepp with a scar that runs inches across and down his stomach.

He also faced months of physiotherapy and will take anti-rejection medication for the rest of his life.

Nonetheless, he has been left “feeling awesome.”

“It’s a pretty amazing thing, organ donation, because you go from being sick and, in a lot of cases, being on the brink of death, to waking up and just feeling like a new person,” he said.

“I’m feeling actually better than I ever have.”

Eight months later, gratitude has turned to advocacy.

Lepp hosted a gala in Kamloops last week to raise funds for the Canadian Transplant Association and spread the word about organ donation.

Guest speakers included Lepp, Margaret Benson from the Canadian Transplant Association and Abby Farnsworth, a local teenaged transplant survivor.

Organ donation

When Lepp looks at the numbers, he can rattle off reasons he thinks Canadians aren’t registering for organ donation.

There’s forgetfulness, procrastination and even laziness but, mostly, he said, “people don’t want to think about it.”

In reality, however, signing up to donate organs and tissue can save up to eight lives and impact up to 75 others, according to the Canadian Transplant Association.

Lepp is one of them.

“Only about 25 per cent of Canadians are registered organ donors,” Lepp said.

“About 90 per cent of people are in favour of it, but not a lot of people actually then take that and actually register.”

He said it’s easy and encourages people to have conversations with family members and register by visiting Service BC, at 455 Columbia St., Kamloops, or by filling out the form that comes with a driver’s licence.

“There are so many people waiting for an organ and a second chance at life,” Lepp said.

 

Just Posted

Chase RCMP request public’s help to find missing man

Travis Allen Sauls was last seen in Chase on July 14

Man jailed for fraud involving North Shuswap credit card thefts

Salmon Arm area man pleads guilty to six counts of fraud under $5,000.

Sicamous praised in pursuit of coveted blooms

Communities in Bloom decision expected in September

Brian Minter to share passion for gardens and greenspaces at Salmon Arm Fair

Well-known B.C. master gardener to give presentation on Friday, Sept. 6.

Rain in the forecast for much of the Southern Interior

Rain for much of the day in most areas clearing in the evening

Madchild brings demons of drug abuse to Okanagan

Swollen Members rapper takes Status stage

Salmon Arm history in photos: Hospital under construction

The “new” hospital is being built in this 1958 photograph. Hasn’t Salmon… Continue reading

Smash and grab at Okanagan pot shop

Cash register and products stolen from Starbuds store in Lake Country

Cause of North Okanagan house fire still under investigation

Mom rescued sleeping baby from Thursday’s blaze

Speculation tax forces sale of Greater Victoria’s iconic ‘Tulip House’

Bob and Jan Fleming selling their retirement home famous for its thousands of tulips

LETTER: Repair work overdue at lakeside path

Condition of walkway is a disgrace for Summerland

New police force in Surrey must avoid VPD, RCMP errors made in Pickton case: Oppal

Boots are scheduled to be on the ground by spring 2021

Man at centre of dropped HIV-disclosure case sues province and 10 cops

Brian Carlisle of Abbotsford says Mission RCMP defamed him and were ‘negligent’ in their investigation

Access to Okanagan Rail Trail to be limited by erosion work

The work will be done throughout September but won’t begin before the Labour Day weekend

Most Read