Transplant recipient and medal winner is living proof that organ donation works
It’s been six years since TransCanada Senior Environmental Advisor Tisa Perra received a life-saving liver transplant, and since then she’s been raking in the gold and silver – in medals, that is.
Most recently, Tisa captured three gold medals and a silver in five and 20 kilometre cycling events, a three kilometre race walk and 100 metre dash at the 2016 Canadian Transplant Games in Toronto.
Held every second summer, the Canadian Transplant Games are open to organ and tissue recipients from across Canada, with athletes ranging in age from four to 80 competing in sports such as track and field, swimming, tennis, cycling, and pickleball – a type of racquet sport.
Tisa also participated in 2012 and 2014 – winning medals in previous years, but not as many as this year.
“I’m getting stronger every year, and felt more competitive than ever this time around,” Tisa said.
Survived terminal cancer through transplant
Tisa, who was diagnosed in 2009 with terminal liver cancer, was initially told she wasn’t a good candidate for a transplant. However, in February 2010, she received the call – and ultimately the transplant – that saved her life.
As an avid cyclist even before her diagnosis, Tisa worked hard to regain her strength following the surgery – and her formerly active and healthy lifestyle.
“The toughest part of waiting for a transplant is not knowing if that phone call for an organ will come through for you,” she said. “So when people in similar situations see Transplant Games athletes who are now well and healthy, it gives that person more hope to hang on and not give up.”
Thankful to donor
Tisa said she knows she wouldn’t be here today – and be able to compete in the Games – if her donor and their family hadn’t made their life-saving decision.
As such, she feels strongly about the need to promote awareness of organ donation – one of the main reasons why she participates in the Transplant Games.
“I think people should know that organ donation works and it is the ultimate gift,” she said. “Nobody ever wants to think about the possibility of dying, but having that conversation about organ donation with your family and registering as a donor with your local agency can help save a life in the future.”
Tisa has made it her mission not to waste her donor’s life-saving gift.
Beyond the Transplant Games, Tisa also participates in the annual Transplant Trot in Calgary to promote awareness for organ donation and raises money for cancer through her involvement in events such as the Ride to Conquer Cancer.
Since 2013, Tisa has further donated over $2,600 to a variety of cancer and organ transplant non-profit organizations through the company’s giving and volunteering program, Empower – with the company matching the same amount to double the support to the causes she cares the most about.
Meanwhile, in the last few years, Tisa has worked full time at TransCanada while earning a professional designation in her field and a Bachelor of Science degree through long distance learning – a degree partially funded by the company through the employee education assistance fund.
“I believe that I provide meaningful and valuable contribution – whether at work or in the society at large – and that’s my ongoing hope for the future,” she said.
As for continuing her winning athletic ways, Tisa plans to keep on participating in the Canadian Transplant Games – and has even greater ambitions in mind.
“One day I’ll make it to the World Transplant Games. I feel strong and healthy enough to do it.”