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Time is running out for a prominent Toronto lawyer who, without a new liver, could die before the new year. WATCH SAM MARR VIDEO
Sam Marr, past president of the Toronto Lawyers Association, is caught in a life-and-death catch-22 that has caused him to make a public plea for someone to step forward and make an organ donation that would save his life.
While he’s prepared to wait on the list for a cadaver organ, they’re distributed based on priority, and by the time Marr’s condition deteriorates to a point that puts him high on the list, it may be too late.
“They’re giving those livers out to people who need them the most, and right now I’m not the sickest person on the list and so I’m hoping to find a live donor, which means someone would donate a portion of their liver when I’m healthy enough to survive the procedure,” says Marr, a civil litigation lawyer. “The problem is if I wait for the donation from a deceased donor, I may get too sick, and there’s a narrow window between the time I’ll be sick enough to get the organ and too sick and die.”
“They’ve seen the need, they’ve seen that people are dying without organs and they’ve decided that one way to solve this problem, until we can get the (necessary) number of deceased persons donating their organs, is to increase the number of organs from live donors,” he says. “They have this fantastic program where they do more live donations than probably any other facility in North America and they have a tremendous success rate. To date, Toronto General Hospital has successfully completed hundreds of living donor operations without a donor death.”
As a 23-year-old law student, Marr was diagnosed with a chronic, progressive liver condition called primary sclerosing cholangitis (PSC).
“I guess time is running out on some level,” says 50-year-old Marr, also a deputy small claims court judge.
Marr, a partner with Landy Marr Kats LLP, continues to work full time and tend to his busy practice, despite struggling for his life.
He has two children – Darren, 18, and Adam, 16, – with his wife of 21 years Susan. She, along with three others, came forward as donors, but all were ineligible. Read “A liver love story,” written by Susan Marr
Close friend Toronto criminal lawyer Joseph Neuberger describes Marr as an incredible person, great husband and wonderful father.
“He has two boys who need their father to remain in their lives,” says Neuberger, partner with Neuberger Rose LLP. “Even though Sam works in a challenging and rewarding career he has never lost his humanity and compassion. We as a community, as a society, must act to help those in need to have healthy lives and to remain as inspirations to the rest of us. Please help.”
A formula called the model for end-stage liver disease (MELD) is how Marr keeps track of his progress. When the score reaches 20, statistically 20 per cent of patients will die within months and the rest will die within two years. Marr’s latest score was 17.
How has Marr coped with having an incurable disease for the last two decades?
“My philosophy has always been there’s a billion things in this world I can’t change and a million I can change,” he says. “I focus on the million. I can change how I live, what I do on a file, how I help clients, how I treat my family and friends, but I can’t cure an incurable disease.”
Landy Marr Kats LLP is a boutique civil litigation firm and Marr’s practice areas include class actions, commercial litigation and personal injury.
While Marr doesn’t focus on death, he says the gravity of his situation isn’t lost on him.
“I’m not blind to the reality of all of this in that I have some fear and I think most people would, but I tend to be pretty good at putting it out of my mind,” he says. “I focus on trying to get a donor. Right now I’m stable, but each month that goes by it’s just more likely my liver is going to fail.”
Marr says it’s difficult to describe how grateful he and his family would be if a donor stepped forward.
“I don’t want to die,” he says. “I have a lot more things I want to do with my life, and one of the most important things is to be there for my family. I have a wife I want to grow old with; I want to be there for my children and grandchildren someday.”
For further information on becoming a living donor for Marr, please contact the Living Donor Transplant Assessment office at the Toronto General Hospital at 416-340-4800 extension 6581 or email liverdonorforsam@gmail.