Posts Tagged ‘organ donation’

Christmas Gift Celebrates 10 Years

In Uncategorized on November 24, 2016 at 5:30 pm


We’re bringing our Christmas Gift album back to the stage this holiday season! Starting off with the Toronto Christmas Market at the Distillery District (Fri Nov 25th 6:30 pm $6) and then a dedicated full length performance at London Ontario’s Aeolian (Sunday Nov 27th 3pm, $22- $30 tix).  We will also be performing some tunes from the project at Upstairs Jazz in Montreal (Dec 2),  Allsaints swing dance in Ottawa (Dec 3) and The Jazz Room in Waterloo (Dec 10)

The story of Christmas Gift….

In 2006 I recorded my Christmas Gift album to help raise awareness for organ donation. I’d seen people waiting for lung transplant, althought transplant had not yet entered my own life. The rampant commercialism of Christmas got me thinking about the misplaced spirit of giving… the gift of life is truly a gift worth giving. And so the album was born.

While the album is a non-typical roller coaster of Christmas tunes from the swing era, I also re-wrote some lyrics for the cause to a Julia Lee song, the Christmas Blues, “If one kind soul would sign on, I’d have a brand new song to sing….” That’s the only overt musical reference to organ donation on the album.

Since I made that record I was able to receive the gift of life in both 2008, and again in 2013. I remember there was one song on this album which became more and more difficult to sing as my disease progressed.  At present, the jam packed mouthful of words are such a joy to sing: I want to share that joy with you again!

Gift of Life…

Visit in Ontario and elsewhere in Canada to sign your consent to be an organ donor here. One person can save up to 8 lives & enhance countless others through organ and tissue donation!

The album….

A special re-pressing of this album has been prepared for this season! Having gone out of print, this 10th anniversary was a good reason to get it pressed again.  As CDs are going the way of the dinosaur, I’d like to point out that aside from being a nifty stocking stuffer, the CD itself also acts as a very reflective mirror for putting on holiday red lipstick, or straightening a holiday bowtie.

The band….

The group I’m traveling with this season includes myself, Peter Hill (piano), John Macleod (cornet), Chris Banks (double bass), and Glenn Anderson (drums.) There will also be guest cellist Christine Newland at the Aeolian show!

The rehearsal….

Click here to preview a few sounds from our rehearsal last week…. The Boogie Woogie Santa Claus!!

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A Celebration Of Life

In Uncategorized on November 18, 2010 at 1:46 am

When Trillium Gift of Life Network (the people who are in charge of arranging organ donation in Ontario) asked me to speak and sing at the “Celebration of Life” service and medal presentation to honour Organ and Tissue donors and their Families, I JUMPED at the chance.

But I hadn’t any idea it would be quite such an emotional night.  Of course, in theory I understood it would be somber. But I wasn’t quite prepared for the overwhelming human experience of sitting amongst the families of the donors. Of hearing them reminisce and cry and accept the medals for their loved ones.  It was, as Tom said, “like attending 75 memorials at once.”

I told them my story from the podium, I let them have an inkling of how my life was, and how now it is so simple to sing and to breathe since transplant.  Trillium asked me to sing “I’ll Be Seeing You”, a great wartime hit about missing the one you love. Later, after the medal ceremony and slide show I sang “Star Dust” Carmichael’s great tune that speaks of the “memory of loves refrain”. And the memories were great in the room. You could feel them everywhere. All sizes and colours and sexes and religions had gathered there. And to be part of that tapestry? I can’t explain how that felt. Intense?

So sitting there, seeing the families, and feeling their grief in the air was intense. Seeing a little girl and her Dad accept the medal for her Mom? There was no use in trying not to cry. In theory I think of these brave and generous souls often. But the act of seeing the families in the real — well it was overwhelming. That in their darkest hours they saw fit to allow others to live? Amazing.

I won’t lie: at moments I felt guilty. Felt guilty that I was sitting there beside my husband while they did not have their loved one. But to some of the ones to whom I spoke, at least, hearing me sing helped them in some measure realize the difference their loved one made. Some good out of tragedy.  Sometimes the sorrow seemed overwhelming within this community of families with a common bond… I can’t imagine how awful it feels to be a grieving family member. But BECAUSE of the generosity of someone like them, MY family is not grieving.  And for that there is no words. Just know that I won’t ever forget and I have now an even greater idea of the cost that my happiness comes at.

And for those of you wondering, Yes, it is rather difficult to sing when you’ve been trying to hold back tears for an hour! But I did it with the help of my stalwart pianist…and a very special set of lungs. I can only hope it brought some meaning to the attendants. Their stories certainly touched me. In fact, I am forever touched by them.

“Hello, Can We Have Your Liver?” and the Damage of the Monty Python Sketch

In Uncategorized on October 12, 2010 at 8:17 pm

In Monty Python’s film ” The Meaning of Life”  nothing is sacred.  In one scene an obese man explodes in a restaurant after greedily eating a gigantic meal . In yet another scene a teacher and his wife personally demonstrate to the class of young boys what sexual intercourse is between a man and a woman…

Why then would they tackle the subject of organ donation with any less vigor?  In the scene in question a knock comes at a man’s door.  “Hello, can we have your liver?” asks John Cleese, clad in a white coat on the doorstep, “But, I’m (still) using it!!!” objects the resident.  His wife comes along as Cleese and company are ripping the liver from her screaming husband, “is this because he took out one of those silly cards?,” she asks, and then adds,  “Typical of him! Always full of good intentions!”

While art –in this case comedy– can turn our eyes inwards, scenes like this,  urban legends, and other myths have done much to discourage organ donation in our society.  At the crux of the matter is the fact that organ donation can save lives. Many lives. When you pass away your thoughtfulness and selflessness can give someone back a life they might otherwise not live.

Here is that myth debunked.

THE MYTH: If I sign my donor card or register my consent & I become injured or sick, the Doctors will not take every care to keep me alive. Instead they will let me die with an eye towards harvesting my organs.

MYTH BUSTED: The registry can’t be accessed until a person is declared dead. Also, ICU doctors are a different bunch than the Transplant Docs. You need two independent docs trained in the diagnosis of brain death to proceed to donation. No two docs, no donation.

There’s a bunch of other protections as well. The key thing is, if this myth happened even once, donor rates would collapse, the system requires total confidence.

GOT ANY MORE QUESTIONS ABOUT DONATION?  To do with religion? Care of the body (did you know the body is treated with the utmost care and is still suitable for an open casket funeral?) Anonymity?  Let ‘er rip & I’ll try and get the official answer for the blog.

I’m really curious to know what holds people back from registering to donate — squeamishness? confronting  mortality? think you are too old (oldest tissue donor was in their 90s!)   just too busy to sign up? Lemmeno’ what drives your decision. Remember, a non-decision is essentially a no… TALK TO YOUR FAMILY TODAY if you want to be a hero and save lives!!!! Many families take great comfort in knowing their loved one helped to bring some good out of a tragedy. Consider signing the registry

At this time of thanksgiving I would just like to go on record and say THANK YOU FROM THE BOTTOM OF MY HEART!

May Day!

In Uncategorized on May 1, 2009 at 11:52 pm


May day! May day! It’s the first of May, and we need you to consider becoming an organ donor!  RECYCLE!  Talk to your family and let them know your wishes. If you’ve read my blog you’ll know how it can change lives. These ads for Lung Mart are popping up around Toronto lately: “if organs and tissue were this easy to find, we wouldn’t need donors.” Pretty freaky ads, but they provoke discussion, which is what we need! I encourage you all to visit their interactive web page at

I’ll be out in the media soon too. Wow. I’ll actually be COMING OUT about my health! To do this has *always* scared me and I managed to keep my health a pretty good trade secret for over a decade. Frankly I wanted people to associate my name with  SINGING and not with an illness.   I never found spreading the idea of a jazz singer coughing up blood between tunes was very romantic (not like the blind man playing the blues).  But now is not the time for Secrets. Now is the time to spread the word. Mid-performance  I told a room-full of folks at Hugh’s room about my transplant. It was a packed house. How could I, in good conscience, NOT tell 125 captive audience members the miracle of transplant? Of course I drove the message home with a big loud song.  A *lot* of people came up after the show to express their amazement and willingness to become donors. Rewarding to say the least. A feel my calling coming on!

At the stable I’m getting my stamina up and have started jumping pretty much full courses of jumps in preparation for showing this summer.  To further press the matter I bought an especial *show* helmet!  On a whim I even took up the offer to ride a large Thoroughbred who was wearing just a halter for steering. The next day I tried the sensational running walk & canter of a Tennessee Walker (from bareback) to broaden my equine palette. I love it!


Oh, La LA! I’ve been very BUSY with the television show of late, and also gigging. Lickin’ Good Fried release our 45 rpm record THIS SATURDAY NIGHT @ the Dakota Tavern in Toronto.  8pm show,  then we go again from 10pm – 1am. I’m VERY excited!!! We just picked up the vinyl tonight…. (and don’t worry, for those of you with no turntable, we will provide you with an MP3 for your purchase! For $5 you get the 45 PLUS two MP3 digital downloads of the singles.)  Performing has rarely been this fun to me as lately. I am *loving* what I do again without the bad lungs to overcome. I am *loving* this band. I am *loving* being there in the moment and pray it goes on and on.

Health wise, my CMV level is still a bit higher than they’d like despite about ten days pill  treatment. I go in soon to see if  I will need i.v. therapy to curb it.  (Guess that’s why they encouraged me to hold onto the iv access in my arm.) Hopefully it remedies itself before coming to that. I pray! IVs are something I have enjoyed being without.

Finally, check out the current Hot Docs festival for a film called 65 Red Roses about one  Cystic woman’s journey to lung transplant. It was on the cover of this week’s NOW magazine and got critics pick.  The article can also be found on-line.