As a Metcalfe family waited and waited outside the arrivals gate at the Ottawa airport Sunday afternoon, it wasn’t just for a long hoped-for hug. It was for the gift of life.
Finally, Colin Jayantha Perera spotted Lasantha Bandara, who had travelled across the world from Sri Lanka to help a man he hadn’t seen since he was a little boy.
“My uncle has helped me from a very young age. He has helped my family,” 40-year-old Bandara said through a translator. “I want to donate a kidney to my uncle.”
“I have come to the end stage of renal failure and the best possible chance of my survival is a transplant,” said Perera, a 65-year-old restaurateur who for now has to undergo gruelling hemodialysis to stay alive.
“I was destined to die. I can now see my little granddaughter grow up. He’s saving my life.”
The transplant that the family feared would never happen is expected to be performed at The Ottawa Hospital next month.
The family was overjoyed when Bandara proved to be a match after agreeing to undergo testing in Sri Lanka then devastated when Citizenship and Immigration Canada turned down his application for a visitor visa in January.
Perera said he gave up hope but his wife and health care providers urged him to approach his member of Parliament, Conservative Pierre Poilievre.
Poilievre contacted Immigration Minister John McCallum, who quickly issued a ministerial permit for Bandara to come to Canada and stay for up to six months.
Poilievre, who was on hand with a Canadian flag to welcome Bandara to Ottawa, called organ donation an “extraordinary gift” as 4,400 people in this country await an organ donation, three-quarters of them a kidney.
According to the Canadian Transplant Society, while 90 per cent of Canadians support organ and tissue donation, only a quarter have made plans to donate.
Perera is now an outspoken advocate.
“People, I always tell them, I am so happy, make another person in the same situation so happy,” he said. “Sign on your driver’s license.”