London transplant recipients for a swim in Lake Ontario in a fundraiser

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Norman De Bono Jillian Best plans to swim 52 kilometers across Lake Ontario in August to raise funds for the transplant unit at the London Health Sciences Center.  Best received a liver transplant in 2016 and said she wanted to give back to the unit that saved her life and show what transplant recipients are capable of.  Dr.  Mayur Brahmania, left, a doctor at the transplant unit, will be in the boat, accompanying Best while swimming.  Liver transplant recipient Andy Moncrieff (center) is a board member of a foundation that Best founded and Peter Denomme (right) helps organize the event.  Photo taken in London, Ont.  on Monday, May 3, 2021. Derek Ruttan / The London Free Press / Postmedia Network Jillian Best plans to swim 52 kilometers across Lake Ontario in August to raise funds for the transplant unit at the London Health Sciences Center. Best received a liver transplant in 2016 and said she wanted to give back to the unit that saved her life and show what transplant recipients are capable of. Dr. Mayur Brahmania, left, a doctor at the transplant unit, will be in the boat, accompanying Best while swimming. Liver transplant recipient Andy Moncrieff (center) is a board member of a foundation that Best founded and Peter Denomme (right) helps organize the event. Photo taken in London, Ont. on Monday, May 3, 2021. Derek Ruttan / The London Free Press / Postmedia Network

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As Jillian Best sees it, the transplant unit at the London Health Sciences Center has saved her life and her mother’s life twice.

Now she wants to give something back.

Best, 34, who received a new liver in 2016, plans to swim 52 kilometers across Lake Ontario this summer to raise $ 75,000 for the transplant unit and buy new equipment that will slow the breakdown of donated organs so that more organs can be transplanted, more lives can be saved.

“I want to help people understand that you can have quality of life after the transplant. Being active and sporty has made my life better. I want to show what a transplant recipient can do and show people that they don’t take life for granted, ”Best said.

“Without organ donation, I wouldn’t be here, my mother wouldn’t be here. I have friends who wouldn’t be here. “

Best founded the Move for Life Foundation and acts as director. With the swim set for August, she launched the foundation’s website at moveforlifefoundation.com in search of donations.

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“I thought this was going to get the transplant community’s attention. It’s a big goal and will bring attention to the transplant center that saved my life and that of my mother twice, ”she said.

The new machine costs $ 150,000, and Best plans to raise an additional $ 100,000 to make sure it is serviced. The Move for Life Foundation plans to hold post-swimming events to help achieve the rest of their goal.

“This will increase the donor pool for organs to be transplanted,” Best said of the machines the unit is looking to buy.

“There are many people who die waiting for an organ transplant. It can revive organs that would be wasted. “

Best swimming is scheduled for August 3rd. She will be departing from a lakeside beach in Niagara and believes it will take approximately 16 hours to reach Marilyn Bell Park in Toronto, the park named after the first person to swim across Lake Ontario.

Mayur Brahmania, a doctor from the transplant unit, will be on the boat, accompanying the Best while swimming.

“The transplant center at LHSC is one of the best in North America. It saves many lives and it can save more lives if it gets this machine, ”said Andy Moncrieff, one of the swim organizers who is also on the foundation’s board of directors. He received a new liver in 2016.

“The first thing transplant recipients want to do is give something back. My transplant was $ 1 million. A young man died in Vancouver and I got his liver, others got his other organs. You go through a lot of emotions and then you think, “I want to give something back.” ”

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Best has a hereditary disease that affects the blood vessels and for which she needs a new liver. Her mother, Bonnie Di Bernardo, 69, had two liver transplants. Your sister is now showing signs that she needs a new liver.

“My mother went through it twice and set a good example. She’s such a powerful influence, “Best said.” She showed me I can get through. “

Best works as a hairdresser and runs her own business, Best Hair Day, from home. It’s shut down due to the COVID-19 lockdown, but that allowed her to practice more time for swimming.

After a winter of dry land training, mostly running, she has started swimming in a wetsuit on the beaches of the area. A friend recently opened her pool and swims there with a tether to simulate distance swimming.

At the World Transplant Games 2019, Best won five gold medals and set five world records.

“I haven’t stopped swimming since my transplant. My relationship with water led me to do this, ”said Best.

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