'It is the gift of life'
Sat, December 29, 2007
Former eduction director Joe Rapai received a liver transplant in November.
By JOHN MINER, SUN MEDIA
A former director of education for the London District Catholic school board says a recent liver transplant has given him a whole new life.
"God has blessed me because everything is wonderful. It is a second life," said Joe Rapai, who received his new liver in November.
Rapai, who has been home from University Hospital for two weeks, praised the professionalism of the hospital's multi-organ transplant unit.
"It is the gift of life. I am walking and healing very well."
Rapai said he was aware his liver function was diminishing for the past nine years. About four years ago, he was put on the waiting list for an organ transplant.
The wait was more difficult than going through the actual surgery, he said.
"Your emotions go up and down."
Rapai's contract with the school board expired earlier this year.
He filed a $1 million suit against the board in May, claiming he faced discrimination and harassment related to his disease.
The board has disputed the claim, saying it was unaware he was seriously ill and required a transplant.
Rapai said he received a call from the hospital last summer that a liver was available, but after being admitted to the hospital he was advised the organ wasn't suitable.
"It was really wild, but that is just a part of the waiting period," he said.
Though waiting is difficult, Rapai said people shouldn't be pressured into the decision to donate organs.
Instead, the shortage of organs for donation should be tackled by raising awareness of the life-changing benefits for recipients, he said.
"That comes through education, it doesn't come through legislation."
Now that he has had his transplant, Rapai said he plans to focus on healing and spending time with his family.
He also will be available to encourage people to consider signing organ donor cards so that others will have the same opportunity that he has been given.
"If I can be of some value, I will be the first to be there."