Trailer promotes the gift of life

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KITCHENER, Ont. – Tony Hopp was counting the days until his wife Janice received the liver transplant she needed to save her life.

All 982 days.

“I was really frustrated,” the Kitchener, Ont. trucker admits of the lengthy process. But there is more need for transplants than there are donors available. More than 2,500 Canadians are currently waiting for life-saving organs.

The Hopps carried beepers for months, waiting for word that a donor had been found. On two occasions Janice Hopp was even called in for “dry runs”, prepped for surgery and booked into the hospital. “If the first candidate can’t have it, then the second person gets it,” says Tony Hopp of the system. But both times they were sent home. Finally, they were selected.

Later, Hopp thought of away to raise awness about the situation.

“It just clicked in with the Sunshine Foundation,” he says.

In 1994, Hopp was involved in a national teddy bear relay that used a trailer as a moving billboard to promote the association that grants wishes for terminally ill children.

“I thought, why can’t we put this organ donation stuff on a trailer?”

Janice Hopp needs $12,000 in medication every year since the transplant, so Hopp felt one of the drug companies would be a natural financial backer for the project.

He put the hospital in touch with 3M Canada, and Hoffmann-La Roche picked up the cost.

“He’s such a positive, enthusiastic force,” says 3M Canada’s Ted Lawson, referring to Hopp’s involvement in the process. “I just ended up being the guy who connected the dots.”

With the help of Twin City Graphics, the message was ready for a Mel Hall Transport truck.

“We’re hoping it’s going to increase discussions about transplants,” says Corinne Weernink, transplant donor coordinator with the London Health Sciences Centre.

While 80 per cent of people polled would donate their organs, less than half have signed their organ donor cards, she says.

Lawson refers to an oft-quoted American Trucking Associations study which says an over-the-road truck will make more than 10 million viewer impressions per year, and as many as 16 million in the city. Mel Hall is now pulling the trailer between Windsor and Toronto. And Al’s Cartage, Hopp’s carrier for the last 28 years, plans to outfit two more 34-foot trailers with photo murals that feature Janice Hopp.

Until his wife needed a transplant, Hopp never thought about signing an organ donor card.

“I just didn’t bother (before),” he says. For details, or to collect an organ donor card, call 800-263-2833. n

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  • I was sitting in traffic today and a tractor trailer came by me heading the other way. It was the trailer that caught my eye. It said “please consider being an organ donor”. It was so ironic because I was on my way from taking my grandson to his monthly appointment with his dialysis team. He is 21 now and was diagnosed with kidney failure at 18. He has been a real trooper through all of this process but things are not going real well. He has calcium deposits in the arteries of his heart and now in his hip. He desperately needs a transplant. He has been waiting for three years..they say it is more like 5.
    I Googled the trucking company and read your article and found that the owners wife needed a liver transplant. I was so happy to hear that she did get one!
    I wanted to say thank you to the owner for continuing to bring awareness to the extreme need to be a donor; living or deceased you can give the gift of life! That is overwhelmingly awesome to me. The second thing is that if you didn’t designate it on your license PLEASE consider doing so.
    There are so many waiting for a new chance at life. My grandson’s mother is a perfect match but her blood vessels are too small to support the blood flow to the kidney if it were transplanted. No one else in the family is a match or they have health problems that prevent donation. He is one of thousands waiting.
    Lastly, thank you to the Truckers News for bringing awareness!

    God bless and good health!