It was quite a three-day period for Nadine Young.
On Sunday, May 12, she celebrated Mother’s Day with daughter Adelynn. On Monday, May 13, she donated 70 percent of her liver to a colleague’s son. On Tuesday, May 14, she celebrated her 39th birthday.
Young is a firefighter in Ajax, Ontario, Canada and her colleague is Mark Singer, whose 19-year-old son Jarrett has liver cancer and needed a transplant in order to survive.
“This is more than a time of need.”
What’s remarkable is that Young isn’t related to the Singers — she just works with Mark.
She decided to be a donor because it’s a chance “to save someone’s life. He’s 19 and hasn’t made a footprint in life,” Young said. “If it was my daughter, I hope someone would do it for her. He’s too young to have his life over.”
The Singer family didn’t return phone calls.
Jarrett has fibrolamellar hepatocellular carcinoma, a rare form of cancer affecting one in five million people.
No family members were compatible, so Mark put out a call seeking help; Young was tested and found to be a match.
“We talked about it at work. I didn’t realize the liver would regenerate. Once I found out it does, I filled out the paperwork,” Young said.
That was in February. In April, she received a call from Toronto General Hospital asking if she was still interested in donating.
“I was and we stated the process,” she added, noting that it included physical and psychological testing to ensure Young could endure the surgery.
“The testing was pretty invasive. The testing was very detailed and very in-depth. There’s blood work, a chest X-ray, a CT scan, an MRI. You feel like a human pin cushion,” she said, adding that there was psychological testing and a meeting with the surgeon.
All that took about a month-and-a-half.
Young’s fiancé Todd Vinson posted on a GoFundMe page, “The donor candidate handbook, pre-op, and postoperative instructions are enough to remind someone this is not a simple procedure. The process is physically, mentally, emotionally, and financially exhausting for both families involved.”
Her surgery was to last eight hours, and involved the surgeon making a seven to 10-inch incision. “It will be my badge of honour.”
Young’s recovery will take about three months. While she is recovering, she can’t hold or lift her daughter.
“While Nadine is going through the surgery and recovery process, she won’t be able to work for at least three months. She will have also limitations on what she can do during that time. She won’t be able to lift more than 10 pounds for six to eight weeks, which means she will not be able to hold or carry Adelynn. For a mother who’s so involved in her daughter’s daily life, it’s devastating to think she won’t be able to pick Adelynn up in her arms to hug her or tuck her into bed,” Vinson noted.
Young was discharged from the hospital yesterday.
“My job is as physical as it is, I have to heal inside and out,” she said.
She met Jarrett and his mother Christine for the first time days before the operation.
“I think the hug with his mother was longer than the one with Jarrett.”
Jarrett had been studying at the University of Guelph when he came home for Christmas and he was sick. Surgery wasn’t successful, and the cancer was found.
“A plea was put out and shared all over social media. Mark explained the situation,” Young said.
Adelynn turns two on Friday, May 24 and Young said that she won’t be able to throw her a party.
“I’ll be bedridden. She won’t remember. I will, but she won’t,” Young said.
Young doesn’t consider herself a hero, saying, “We’re here for everybody. It’s probably his only chance. That’s what the doctors tell me.”
It’s important to be there for someone in their time of need, she said. “This is more than a time of need.”
Between 90 to 95 percent of her liver will regenerate, and it will be fully functional in eight weeks, she said.
Vinson posted an update over the weekend, saying, “Nadine seemed to be doing well despite significant abdominal pains. She is standing and walking every chance she gets. She had visitors from AFES (Ajax Fire and Emergency Services) today, which definitely raised her spirits.”
He noted on the GoFundMe page, “This would be to help provide care and support for Nadine and Adelynn, and to help our family meet unforeseen expenses during a time when our family income will be strained and unpredictable. Nadine and I (am) minimalistic in our approach to these logistics, as our desire is to provide your donations to Jarrett.”
The aim of the GoFundMe page is to raise $20,000 to cover the Singer family expenses over the coming weeks; as of May 24, $14,405 had been raised.
Donations can be made here: GoFundMe