CAMBRIDGE — As a local teen awaits a desperately needed lung transplant, citizens will be painting the community green to show support for the girl.
Kayla Baker, 14, was admitted to SickKids Hospital in Toronto on March 13 and is surviving on a machine that provides life support because her lungs are failing.
She requires a double lung transplant due to pulmonary fibrosis, a disease causing the stiffening of the lungs which she was diagnosed with at 11. It is believed to be the result of cancer treatment she received as an infant.
Baker has been on a transplant list for two years and in that time worked to promote the issue of organ and tissue donations, joining organizations like the Life Donation Awareness Association.
“Her stamina and strength continues to amaze me,” said Carol Thorman, who met Baker through the association.
“She’s still a kid, she knows how to have fun … but the way she goes about her business going about promoting organ and tissue donation is beyond most grown-ups,” Thorman said of the teen.
While Baker and her family now wait for a donor match and investigate options of a live donation, the community is carrying forward the teen’s work in raising awareness about organ donations.
Go Green for Kaylais a local event happening Friday. Baker’s friends and family are asking everyone in the community to wear green — the colour representing organ donations — or tie green ribbons outside their homes and offices to show their support for Baker.
They’re also informing the public about registering for organ and tissue donations online at BeADonor.ca.
“Nobody wishes for somebody to die to save their loved one’s life, but we don’t want to see usable organs buried,” Thorman said about the Be A Donor movement.
Thorman added that carrying a donor card doesn’t mean you’re registered — everyone must fill out the online form or visit a Service Ontario office to sign up.
At St. Michael’s Catholic School, a dance-a-thon has also been planned to coincide with the Go Green event on Friday.
Proceeds raised at the dance will be donated to SickKids in Baker’s name, contributing to her wish to raise $10,000 for the hospital.
“My hope is to see this entire city painted green on Friday so that (Baker) knows she’s got this entire community behind her,” said Deedee Norris, a parent council member at the school organizing the event.
In Toronto, a month-long campaign to support Baker will launch Wednesday. The Torch of Life for Kayla’s Wish is being organized by the charity Step by Step, which supports organ and tissue donation awareness in Canada.
During the campaign, supporters can carry the Torch of Life around a 2.5 kilometre stretch circling SickKids Hospital between Apr. 3 and 30. Supporters can register to carry the torch at the charity’s website.
Ray Jonasson, a Kitchener man who received a liver transplant in 2011, said he will be among those carrying the torch for Baker because of the support she showed him. Baker cheered for Jonasson as he competed in an 800-metre track race last February to promote registration for organ and tissue donation.
“She’s struggling all the time and yet she was bubbly, high-fiving me, saying it was inspirational to be there,” he said recalling Baker’s involvement at the race.
“I can definitely do a lap around the hospital for her.”
On May 11, a five-kilometre walk and run will be held in Cambridge to also fundraise for SickKids on Baker’s behalf. Registration and donations for the event can be made through the “Run aLung” event website.
With so many events planned in the upcoming weeks, those close to Baker are proud of the growing community support for her.
“She is a very strong, amazing, selfless young lady that does everything for everyone else and it’s time for us to do something for her,” Norris said.