The Power of Giving Back

A Brother’s Journey


Josh was just a toddler when his sister underwent a heart transplant.

For as long as Josh Carriere McKenna can remember, transplantation has been part of his life. When Josh was just two years old, his family was uprooted from their home in the Lower Mainland and moved to Toronto in order to give his baby sister a fighting chance at survival. Born with a congenital heart defect, Josh’s sister Brynn required a heart transplant. Unfortunately, back in the early 2000s, pediatric patients in BC in need of a heart transplant had to travel outside of the province for their life-saving surgery. After a few stressful and intense months waiting for a suitable donor, Brynn received a new heart at the Hospital for Sick Children. Despite this being an incredibly challenging period in the Carriere McKenna family, these experiences introduced the family to a unique world of mutual support and understanding that comes with being part of the transplant community. As a sibling of a recipient, Josh acknowledges transplantation is truly a family affair, “Transplant, and the community around it, has been a big part of my life ever since my sister came into the world. Most of the earliest memories I have are transplant related.”

Making a Difference

Fulfilling a childhood dream, Josh recently started a band called Witiko.

Now a young man, Josh is enrolled in the Media Studies program at the University of British Columbia. In his first two years of university, Josh has focused his energies on film production and film studies. Following in his parents’ footsteps, Josh recently began volunteering with the Transplant Research Foundation of BC (TRF). Josh’s family has a long history with TRF, with both his father Mike, and more recently his mother Carmen, having served on the TRF Board of Directors. Using his skills and talents in filmmaking, Josh has selflessly volunteered countless hours to TRF filming events and producing TRF’s Christmas campaign. These contributions have been instrumental in helping advance the work of TRF. It enables more people in the transplant community to learn about the innovative research being funded and ensures transplant research is given a human face. Despite leading an exceptionally busy life that includes full time studies, working and playing guitar in a newly formed band, Josh is always willing and eager to help when needed.

Humble and unassuming, Josh doesn’t look for recognition and finds his involvement rewarding, “I’ve been able to attend many interesting events and learn about many people’s stories I may have otherwise missed out on. It’s wild to hear how technologies around transplant are advancing and to hear about the lives of others who have connections to transplant as well. It’s been awesome to be able to do my part to put out digital versions of these events and stories.”

A Life-Saving Decision

It is not lost on Josh that his younger sister is alive today because of an organ donor. He has been given 18 years with Brynn because of organ donation and advances in transplant medicine. Josh wants people to understand that registering to be an organ donor is simple but can literally save someone’s life and give a family back their loved one. Josh has many hopes for the future of organ donation and transplantation, including continued advances in technologies to make transplant easier, safer, and, ultimately, a cure.

The Carriere McKenna family at Brynn’s graduation. A day made possible thanks to the gift of organ donation and transplant research.