Family Encourages Organ Donation

Photo of the blog author By Ron Fanfair,
Toronto Police Service
Published: 3:30 p.m. May 1, 2015
Updated: 2:06 p.m. May 4, 2015

When Lori Penstone retired from the Toronto Police Service after 32 years, she was looking forward to spending more time with family.

Two men and one woman stand together
Norm Penstone with his son-in-law Terry Neill, and daughter Lori

Penstone, who retired in late 2012, wanted to spend time caring for her parents, Norm (a former Toronto cop who handed in his badge three decades ago) and Louise, as well as spending some quality time with husband Terry who’s employed in the construction industry.

Everything was going according to plan until last February, when Terry Penstone learned that he may need a liver transplant.

The diagnosis that he was suffering from autoimmune hepatitis has been devastating for the family. His body’s immune system attacks the liver. 

Untreated, autoimmune hepatitis can lead to scarring of the liver and, eventually, liver failure. 

Lori Penstone was with her husband when the liver specialist broke the news.

“I was absolutely dumbfounded when we were told his liver was severely damaged,” she said. “I saw his eyes were a bit jaundiced, but I didn’t relate that to liver failure.”

For his part, Terry Penstone – who spent 10 days at Southlake Regional Health Centre – is optimistic his health will improve to the point where he can return to normal. 

“I am on a regimented drug plan and I do blood work twice weekly,” he said. “The drug levels are being modified to see how my body reacts. I am on almost six times the normal daily dose of steroids.”

Penstone, who is meeting with the Toronto General Hospital team on May 27, said his health has declined dramatically since the diagnosis.

“My energy is low and I don’t sleep as well as before,” he said. 

There is a slim chance that Penstone’s autoimmune hepatitis can be managed with drugs. If not, he will have to undergo a transplant.

In the meantime, Penstone and his family are raising awareness about the need for Ontarians to register their consent for organ and tissue donation.

They attended the “First Responders Be A Donor Day” event on April 30 at Nathan Phillips Square.

“I am here to support my son-in-law, who is a great guy,” said Norm Penstone. “I have registered to be donor and I hope others will follow.”

Over a quarter of all eligible Ontarians have registered their consent to donate, but only 17% in Toronto.

One person can save up to eight lives, while tissue donation can also enhance the lives of up to 75 others.

Age isn’t a factor, as the oldest Canadian organ donor was over 90, while the oldest tissue donor was 102. 

For more information or to register for organ donation, visit beadonor.ca

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