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By Karen Herland
When Gordon Denison (MEng 04) carried the Olympic torch through Beloeil last December, he exemplified the Olympic spirit in more ways than one.
“It was amazing to be part of the chain that carried to torch all the way from Greece to Vancouver,” Denison said of his 300-metre contribution to the relay.
A decade ago, his future was uncertain and any Olympic association seemed unlikely. As a teenager, he experienced end stage renal failure that left him linked to a dialysis machine for hours a day over the better part of a year. He received a kidney transplant at the Montreal Children’s Hospital and has been going strong every since, completing his engineering studies at Concordia and starting his career at Kolostat Inc.
He continues to volunteer in numerous programs associated with the Canadian Kidney Foundation, the Royal Victoria Hospital, the Montreal Children’s Hospital and Partenaires Santé. He tells his own story to demystify the process of organ transplant to help prepare those facing the procedure and to raise funds to support the MUHC Dialysis and Organ Transplant Fund.
An athlete before the transplant, Denison has since earned numerous medals in track and field, swimming and badminton at the national and international Transplant Olympics. “Currently, I am a part of the organizing committee for Team Quebec, and am also training to compete in the 2010 Canadian Transplant Olympics. I also hope to be part of Team Canada at the 2011 World Transplant Olympics, to be held in Sweden.”
Denison applied to be one of the torchbearers a year ago and learned he had earned the honour last summer. Among the various hurdles he needed to leap to carry the torch was an essay he wrote describing his experience as an athlete and transplant survivor.
“The fact that the Olympic flame is being passed from one person to the other, such that they can carry out the relay is synonymous with organ donation. The difference is that a person is passing their organ such that the recipient can live a normal and healthy life.”
Denison opted to purchase his torch after the relay. Although the fuel line was cut when he received the torch, Denison didn’t let that slow him down. “As an engineering grad from Concordia, I decided to address the problem.” With the help of a friend, he was able to reattach the line and get the torch lit again.