Stroller Spotlight: You can’t take it with you - Wayne Aelick
Born and raised in Manitoulin Island, Wayne Aelick spent 45 years working for Manitoulin Transport. The love of his life, Anna, also works there. They live on the shores of Lake Huron, in a town called Kagawong.
Five children, seven grandchildren – Wayne was living a happy, productive life.
In 2009, Wayne began to develop health issues and was diagnosed with Ulcerative colitis. Even with immediate treatment, nothing helped. Wayne’s health regressed quickly, leaving invasive surgeries as the only option.
In September 2010, Wayne had an ileostomy, removing his lower intestine and other essential organs. Although the procedure saved his life, it also drastically decreased his quality of life, unearthing more health complications.
Things continued to get worse. Wayne began to lose liver function, a common complication of Ulcerative colitis. In 2013, Wayne’s health was in a drastic decline. More surgeries and more procedures just prolonged and exacerbated his ailments – nothing was working.
By 2016, Wayne was making regular hospital visits every few months. His world was upside down: he slept all day and was awake all night. He was completely inactive and had no energy or drive, leaving him feeling hopeless.
“My doctor said I’d probably never get a chance to have a transplant, because of my age,” Wayne shared, as he choked back tears. “And he didn’t think I’d last till I was 70 years old.”
But in January, 2017, Wayne’s health had declined so much, that he was finally put on the transplant list. Wayne and Anna remained optimistic and packed their hospital bags that sat waiting by the door for months and months.
And finally, on May 18, 2017, the phone rang. Wayne and Anna were told to get to London, Ontario, by 6:30 a.m., because a liver was waiting for Wayne. They grabbed the bags that sat waiting so patiently by the door and drove through the night. By 11:00 p.m. the next day, Wayne had a new liver.
“I got my life back – a fresh start on life,” Wayne says of his transplant. “Not a day goes by that I don’t thank my donor for giving me life. I went from one foot in the grave to getting a new lease on life,” he says.
His new lease came with renewed energy leaving Wayne with the drive and zest to get back into the garden, out for walks through his neighbourhood and out kayaking with Anna in the summers.
His new energy combined with gratefulness for his liver transplant led Wayne to learn about and sign up for Canadian Liver Foundation’s Stroll for Liver – a fundraising event to support Canadian Liver Foundation’s mission of bringing liver research to life.
Despite the COVID-19 pandemic, in 2020, Wayne and his family planned a socially-distanced fundraising walk around his community. Together, Wayne, Anna, their children and grandchildren, family members and friends, walked together to raise funds and awareness for liver disease, celebrate Wayne’s achievements, and advocate for organ donation. With homemade banners and endless smiles, the troupe walked five km, ending back at Wayne and Anna’s for a COVID-safe outdoor barbeque.
As COVID-19 pandemic restrictions continue, Wayne and Anna are still planning a safe and distanced walk. For them, the activity is too important to put on hold.
“I walk to show that I’m thankful for what I’ve been given,” says Wayne. “But I also walk because I want others to know my story, so they can learn, and hopefully support it by donating, and most importantly, by becoming an organ donor. I want to raise hope.”
Wayne says without the liver donation, he would have been dead by now and is advocating for others to join the cause, learn more, also sign up to be an organ donor.
“Please do not take your organs to heaven. Heaven knows we need them here.”
Learn more about Canadian Liver Foundation and sign up to support the Stroll For Liver and sign up today.