Forever my Hero

Forever my Hero

Cherish the moments no matter how big or small, is Dakota’s approach to life post-transplant.

While the world was grappling with a new and virulent virus, Dakota Meredith was facing her own battle. Diagnosed with colitis when she was just a young child, Dakota later developed autoimmune hepatitis. Eventually, this condition evolved into primary sclerosis cholangitis. Dr. Eric Yoshida at Vancouver General Hospital (VGH) was instrumental in helping Dakota manage this new chapter in her health journey. Her health remained stable until New Year’s Day 2020, when she found herself hospitalized with liver failure. Doctors told Dakota that she was in imminent need of a liver transplant. To say this was not how the 30-year-old thought 2020 would begin would be an understatement.

The difference a healthy liver makes: posttransplant Dakota is no longer jaundiced.

As health care systems around the world evolved to reflect the ever-changing requirements of the pandemic, Dakota was experiencing first-hand what this meant for transplant patients. Just five months after learning her liver was shutting down, Dakota received her gift of life. Unable to be with her prior to surgery, her parents waited outside the hospital for hours, anxiously awaiting news that the surgery was a success. Post-surgery visits consisted of only one hour a day per parent and their emotional waves from below her hospital window. Technology became Dakota’s saving grace – her family was never more than a phone call away, regardless of the time of day or night. “Although this pandemic changed the way we had to approach the surgery and my recovery, it did not change the love that I received,” emphasizes Dakota.

The limitations on visitors meant that Dakota found herself turning to her nurses for most of her immediate needs. She credits the nursing staff at VGH with filling the void that was created by the physical absence of her family – “My nurses truly stepped in to play the role of my family. I honestly do not know what I would have done without them. They were not only there for me physically, but also emotionally.”

Dakota and her colleagues at Blakeburn Elementary, celebrating the life of her donor and successfully running 10km in support of transplant research.

Just months following her transplant, Dakota begin brainstorming ways she could give back to the transplant community. The perfect opportunity presented itself when her coworker at Blakeburn Elementary School in Port Coquitlam suggested they turn their school run into a fundraiser to support transplant research and honor the life of her donor. After extensive planning and pivoting to reflect current COVID-19 safety protocols, Dakota and fifteen of her colleagues held their 10km run, raising $3,300 for the Transplant Research Foundation of BC.

For Dakota, research is the key to the future of transplantation. “In one conversation I had with a transplant recipient, they mentioned how medicine has changed in the decade since they received their organ, improving their quality of life.” She adds, “I know that as research advances, the experiences of both patients and donors can become even better. I want as many people as possible to be able to have a second chance at life, and I know through research this will become possible.”

Looking ahead, Dakota is excited and hopeful for what the future holds. Because of her new liver she can resume her career working with children and pursue her dream of being a school counsellor. She finds it hard to put into words what her second chance means to her as the gravity of the situation is never far from her mind.

“I have had many moments where I stop and think about where my liver came from, and the person who saved my life. It has taught me that love is the most important thing, and to cherish as many moments as possible. I would like to thank my donor for the life they have provided me. They have truly shown me what it is like to be selfless, brave, and inspiring. They are forever my hero.”

Help fulfill Dakota’s vision for the future of transplant medicine, support organ donation and transplant research —>

Take a moment and register your wishes to be an organ donor by visiting BC Transplant’s Website.