by Shauna Osatchuk
The gift of life is the most precious gift of all.
Penticton resident Terry Craig knows this truth first-hand.
As an organ donor, he has been empowered by the experience.
And now he wants to enable others to experience this joy.
“The main message that I’m trying to get out there is — what an incredible experience it is to be a living organ donor,” Craig said.
“You’re given two kidneys and you only need one.  You have been given this life-changing opportunity to save somebody’s life.
“Just knowing you’ve been able to save someone’s life is amazing.
“Outside of having kids, it’s the most powerful, gratifying and rewarding experience.”
In an effort to celebrate and publicize the organ donor process in the South Okanagan, the British Columbia Kidney Foundation’s 2011 Kidney Walk: A Walk to Close the Gap will be held at Penticton’s Gyro Park on Sunday, August 21.
“The theme of this year’s walk is ‘Close the Gap’,” Craig said.
“Eighty-five per cent of BC residents have indicated they agree with organ transplants, but only 17 % of them have actually signed up.  It’s such a simple procedure.”
Craig said volunteer transplant registration can be done on-line or via forms obtained from the BC Transplant Society.  The old program, which included placing a decal on your driver’s licence, has expired.  He noted there are many ways people can participate and donate, now.  All in all, the whole process respects life and the individual.
“BC Transplant Society will never compromise one individual’s quality of life to improve another’s,” Craig said, noting there are national registries for living donors, as well.  “It’s an opportunity that is difficult to pass up.”
In addition to encouraging potential donors, Craig wants people to know about the quality of life after donating a kidney.
“I wanted to get the message across that, after becoming a donor, one can physically do what they did before the surgery,” he said.
He feels so strongly about this, that he has embarked on a year-long physical training journey.  Craig, who is a Certified General Accountant and partner at the Kemp Harvey Kemp Osoyoos and Penticton offices, completed the Penticton Ironman back in 2003.  This was prior to becoming an organ donor in 2005.
As a veteran organ donor, he has set his sights higher than ever.
“I will be competing in the SuperTri in Grand Coulee this year,” he said.
The Grand Columbian Super Triathlon will be held on September 17, 2011 and will feature a 5-kilometre swim, a 200-kilometre cycling ride and a 50-kilometre run — the event is slightly longer than an Ironman.  He is hoping this will qualify him for the Penticton Ultraman in August of 2012.  The Ultraman includes 10 kilometres of swimming, 420.6 kilometres of biking and 84.3 kilometres of running.
Craig realizes a lot of fears and misunderstandings exist about the living organ donation process.  He feels that completing the SuperTri and Ultraman will send a message to those who are considering such an important decision.
“This is not just for donors, or potential donors, but it is also for their families — so they can see what they can do afterwards,” he said.
“Physically, you can do everything you could do before and after you donate a kidney.  That shouldn’t be an obstacle.”
Craig has witnessed this in his own life.
“I don’t seem to notice anything different,” he said.
“If anything, I have more endurance than before.  Physically — now and before — there’s no difference.”
Each day, as Craig lives and trains, all of his motivation and impetus comes from one source.
“I’m constantly inspired by my wife,” Craig said.
Craig’s journey to organ donation began when he met the love of his life, Laura, in 2003.  He saw the heart-breaking challenges she had to endure, as she faced the daily realities of polycystic kidney disease.
“The kidney plays such an important role in cleaning out and filtering out the waste in the body,” Craig explained.
“You don’t realize how important it is.  That junk sitting in your body makes it more and more difficult to function on a daily basis.
“It’s a totally important organ and, when it’s suffering, there is not as much pain — it’s more just being physically tired all the time.”
At first, Craig did not know he could be a kidney donor — because he had his own medical issues and he was not able to donate blood.
“I finally phoned and went to the hospital,” he said.  “I didn’t know that my blood type was the same as Laura’s.  It was so exciting.  I couldn’t believe there was a chance that I could donate my kidney to her.”
Equipped with hopeful news, the couple went through various medical tests and they waited to hear results.  The pair married on September 17, 2005.  Soon after, their doctors had a belated wedding present for them.
“After nine months of waiting, we were informed,” Craig said.
“We found out on September 29th that we could do it.  We always joked that if we found out earlier, we would have gotten married the day before the operation.”
On November 28, 2005, the couple headed into the transplant ward at St. Paul’s Hospital in Vancouver.  They both were prepared for surgery.
“It used to be a more invasive procedure,” Craig said, noting the operation is now a streamlined laparoscopic procedure.
“They stick a camera and forceps in you and they can watch what’s going on.  Once they have the kidney secured, they move the kidney through an incision which is about 3 inches wide.
“You have your kidney taken out and you’re wheeled out, then the recipient is wheeled in.”
After their 12 hours of combined surgeries, the couple began their recovery process.
“It took me a few weeks to get back on track — about six weeks, which is normal,” Craig said.
The results of the life-changing surgery were apparent immediately for his wife.
“It was pretty emotional right after when I got to see her,” he said.  “It was pretty amazing when she had the new kidney.  The waste levels in the blood were at normal within 24 hours — that’s how quickly that new kidney was functioning.  That’s how fast it happened.”
Craig continues to be in awe of the donor experience.
“We have experienced more and more of a connection with each other each day that has gone by because of this,” he said.
“I’m fortunate that the recipient of my kidney is my wife and I am lucky to see the result of this on a daily basis.”
For those who wish to sign up for the general provincial organ donation program, please visit  Information regarding the Canadian Blood Services national living donor registry is at
To volunteer with, participate in or donate to the Kidney Walk at Gyro Park on Sunday, August 21 at 8:30 a.m., please contact Terry Craig at 250-495-3223, e-mail or visit the Kidney Foundation website at  Also, event sponsor Kemp Harvey Kemp is accepting Kidney Walk donations at the firm’s Penticton or Osoyoos offices.