When Steven Reilander was 11 years old, his parents got the kind of news that no parent ever wants to hear – that their son needed a new liver.
Born with Cystic Fibrosis, Steven’s cirrhosis of the liver was discovered during a medical exam, and when medication didn’t help, he was put on a waiting list for a liver transplant. Eleven long months later, the David Foster Foundation flew Steven and his family from their hometown of Sidney, British Columbia to London Ontario, where Steven got his new liver.
“I remember we were packed and ready to go at any time for the full 11 months, and it was such a long wait before we finally got that call, it came at 1:30 in the morning,” he says.
That was 11 years ago – today, Steven is 22 and very excited about his future, which includes attending the Mel Hoppenheim School of Cinema at the University of Concordia in Montreal this fall.
“Film is what I feel most passionate about,” Steven says. “Ever since I can remember, my attraction to motion pictures was nothing less than an obsession. I have always admired story telling, and the power that an art form – whether it is acting, music, painting, dance or photography – has to emotionally impact the person observing.”
Funny, articulate and wise beyond his 22 years, Steven also recognizes the importance of the gift he has been given with his transplant, and is determined to live his life to the fullest.
In fact, he and his family are in a unique position. In addition to Steven’s liver transplant, four years ago they learned that Steven’s younger brother Mitchel also needed a liver transplant. Mitchel, who was also born with Cystic Fibrosis, waited for his new liver for 13 months. Mitchel was 17 at the time of his transplant, and the David Foster Foundation again helped the family with their non-medical costs. Steven says that although his brother’s transplant went well, watching his brother’s experience gave him a whole new perspective.
“For me, going through my transplant when I was 11, I never imagined what my parents or family were going through,” Steven says. “Watching my brother go through the transplant process was agonizing, because I felt so helpless – it was way worse than going through it myself,” he says.
Today, life is good for Steven and the rest of the Reilander family. Steven is “totally stoked” about going to study film in one of the best programs in Canada this fall, and Mitchel is attending college and leaning toward a career in medical imaging.
“Ultimately, it’s all about attitude,” he says. “It’s a really long road for families to get through this type of thing, and staying positive is so important”.