Kidney donation was a 'no brainer' for ex-Roughrider Mike Abou-Mechrek

Former Saskatchewan Roughriders' offensive lineman Mike Abou-Mechrek is an advocate for kidney transplants after donating a kidney to his father.

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Donating a kidney was an easy decision for Mike Abou-Mechrek.

“It’s not a big deal,” the former Saskatchewan Roughriders offensive lineman says, “because you’re saving someone’s life.”

That “someone” is his 72-year-old father Jahid, who had battled kidney-related issues for 10 years leading up to the transplant.

Tests determined that Abou-Mechrek was a match and he later made the trip from Regina to Toronto for the transplant surgery.

Abou-Mechrek learned upon his arrival at a Toronto hospital that his father was in such dire straits that the surgery was proceeding as scheduled despite most elective surgeries being cancelled due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The surgery was completed April 23, when his father had a new kidney along with a new lease on life.

“My dad walked into my room after my surgery,” Abou-Mechrek says “He’s so tough. He’s doing fine and it’s awesome.”

Abou-Mechrek spent time with the Roughriders, Winnipeg Blue Bombers and Ottawa Renegades over a 10-year CFL career that concluded in 2008. He won a CIS (now U Sports) Vanier Cup football championship with the Western University Mustangs in 1994 and a Grey Cup with the Roughriders in 2007.

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Former Saskatchewan Roughrider Mike Abou-Mechrek recently donated a kidney to his father and was given the medallion seen at centre. Accompanying the medallion is a 2007 Grey Cup ring, a 1994 Vanier Cup ring and a 2008 Roughriders’ Team President’s Award ring.
Former Saskatchewan Roughrider Mike Abou-Mechrek recently donated a kidney to his father and was given the medallion seen at centre. Accompanying the medallion is a 2007 Grey Cup ring, a 1994 Vanier Cup ring and a 2008 Roughriders’ Team President’s Award ring. Photo by BRANDON HARDER /Regina Leader-Post

After the successful transplant surgery, Abou-Mechrek was presented with a medallion that recognizes an organ donation. He laughs when asked if winning a Grey Cup and the medallion had anything in common.

“They both took a pound of flesh,” he says. “I’m happy to do it and so happy to be a good person. It’s such an easy thing to do to give someone a lifetime.

“If more people knew how easy it was and how instant the benefit was, there would be a lineup of decent people who had 10 days off work who would do it and could change the world by laying still for 10 days.”

Abou-Mechrek was already familiar with the process of kidney transplants. His ex-wife, Kathie Rees, donated a kidney to her father in 2005.

“I remember going into his room a couple of hours after his surgery,” Abou-Mechrek recalls. “I jumped on his bed and I gave him a big hug because what I saw didn’t match up (with the surgery). He looked like he just got back from Mexico with those bright blue eyes.

“That vision is what I wish everyone could see because if you could, then (kidney donation) is a no-brainer. You wouldn’t consider doing anything else because it’s what you do.”

The death of Logan Boulet in the Humboldt Broncos’ bus crash of 2018 has brought a higher profile to organ donation. Boulet had registered for organ donations shortly before the crash. His story spurred thousands of Canadians to register for organ and tissue donations.

Those donations can have an impact. According to the Saskatchewan Health Authority (SHA), one tissue donor can help 75 people and one organ donor can save eight lives. Forty to 50 per cent of kidney transplants in Saskatchewan also come from living donors.

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Saskatchewan, however, has one of the lowest rates of organ donations in the country. To encourage more people to donate, the SHA launched an online tissue and organ registry in September.

Further information on organ donation can be found at www.givelifesask.ca.

“People need to know about it and they need to make their own decisions,” says Abou-Mechrek, who plans on becoming an advocate for organ donation. “Maybe they don’t know about it. If you do, then you can make the decision based on who you are.”

Abou-Mechrek, 45, is recovering in his Regina home and improving every day. The CFL veteran has set a goal for when he’s fully recovered.

“I want to get in great shape after this and bounce back,” Abou-Mechrek said. “I want to tell people that I have a six-pack now and this is what I looked like before I gave up a kidney.”

He’s not letting his father off the hook for the donation.

“All he has to do is rake up my leaves in the fall and we’re square,” Abou-Mechrek says. “I hate doing leaves and I have so many of them. It sounds like a fair trade to me.”

mmccormick@postmedia.com

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