Stroller Spotlight – Honouring Larry’s Legacy

Stroller Spotlight: Rita Helming

Stroll for Liver

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Cholangitis and those who care about them.
Continue below to read Rita Helmig’s
story about her husband, Larry.


Honouring Larry’s Legacy

Stroller Spotlight: Rita HelmingMy husband, Larry Gibson, was diagnosed with Primary Sclerosing Cholangitis (PSC) in late 2006. He had been to multiple doctors for over a year and was frequently told the cause was likely his gall bladder. Finally, just before the scheduled removal of his gall bladder, a failed ERCP, or endoscopic retrograde cholangiopancreatography (a procedure to diagnose and treat liver problems) revealed that his problem was, in fact, something more serious.

After an initial misdiagnosis, we were told it was likely PSC, a liver disease where the bile ducts progressively decrease in size due to inflammation and scarring. Bile starts to accumulate within the liver, damaging cells. Eventually, it can lead to liver failure.

The only treatment for Larry would be a liver transplant. We tried to be positive and patient, and after a four-year wait, he got the call: a suitable liver had been found! The magic event took place on January 13, 2011. We were thrilled to see that his new liver was such a perfect match that he was discharged after just eight days, and we never looked back.

Stroller Spotlight: Rita HelmingBecause of our experience, we knew first-hand just how important it was to support the work of the Canadian Liver Foundation (CLF). We participated in our first STROLL for LIVER in Red Deer, Alberta in June 2013 with a group of friends. Larry was so inspired that the next year we formed our own team to stroll, Team Transplant. Our online auction was create to help raise funds, and we had many laughs with our amazing supporters as we raised money for the Canadian Liver Foundation. It will always be near and dear to our hearts.

We had five wonderful years full of adventures and travels. During that time, we were the first transplant recipients in Western Canada to meet our donor family. I can’t say enough about just how special that was. We will always be grateful for Dick’s family making that decision to be heroes and donate his organs; because of this selfless act, we will always consider them our family, too.

Stroller Spotlight: Rita HelmingDespite these great years following Larry’s first transplant, things took another turn just one month after Larry’s five-year check-up. He was given a clean bill of health and told he was now “boring” because everything appeared normal at the appointment, but Larry started feeling slightly off and knew deep down something wasn’t right.

Pursuing his gut feeling, he started a new series of tests and procedures, and by July it was clear that his PSC had returned, much to our disappointment. What followed was a series of visits to the hospital over the coming months, and by fall that year, we knew another transplant was our only option. This was finally confirmed by his team on December 31, 2016.

We sneaked in one last trip to Maui, and by the time we got home, it was clear that Larry was declining quickly. He was finally cleared for another transplant, but by the time he was taken into surgery he was too ill and complications during the procedure caused them to abort the transplant. He succumbed to his illness on April 25, 2017.

Stroller Spotlight: Rita HelmingTwo weeks after his death, my daughter and I formed Larry’s Girls and began our fundraising auction. We also started doing another auction in December that year. Larry’s belief was that every year the auction had to be bigger and better, and that was the only way we saw ourselves living up to his mission. In our years of fundraising for the CLF, we have been fortunate enough to be top fundraisers several times, and our team of two has also held bragging rights as Top Team. It is our privilege to honour him.

Stroller Spotlight: Rita HelmingWe are proud to honour Larry’s memory in doing our part to fundraise, and we need to continue this work to find answers and treatments for liver disease. By fundraising for the CLF and participating in the STROLL for LIVER, we can continue supporting investing in life-saving research, patient support, advocacy work, and educating Canadians on monitoring and managing their own liver health.

We’re hopeful answers are on the horizon. Together we can do this – one step at a time.

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