The Nicholas Sidorenko Story (August 22, 1984-October 10, 2010)
Nick Sidorenko died on 10-10-10, (October 10, 2010). This year is the 10th anniversary of his death and we wish to bolster the funds of the memorial scholarship created in his honour at John Abbott College (JAC). The JAC Foundation has been granting this scholarship to deserving graduating students since its creation.
The story of Nick and all he accomplished in his short life is best shared by Nick himself. Preparing to participate in the World Transplant Games in Ontario in July of 2005, Nick wrote:
My story begins in my first semester at John Abbott College in the fall of 2001. Late one November evening, I was rushed to emergency at the Lakeshore General Hospital. This was my first experience in a hospital. In high school, I participated in a variety of activities: I played on the basketball, badminton, volleyball, soccer and many intramural sports teams. I left Beaconsfield High School with the Robert Needham Award, which is presented annually by the staff and students to the outstanding male student of the graduating class who best combines the qualities of scholarship, citizenship and sportsmanship.
After three days at the Lakeshore Hospital, I was transferred to the Royal Victoria Hospital for intensive cardiac care and final diagnosis. They said I had "Viral Cardiomyopathy". Cardiomyopathy is a group of heart muscle disorders in which the ventricles enlarge, but are not able to pump enough blood to the body, resulting in heart failure. "Viral" just means that it was most likely caused by a virus. This can be a common cold that just attacks the heart. After being diagnosed, I was given a variety of medications to strengthen my heart.
As time passed, it worsened. I began to have this arrhythmia, where my heart would beat uncontrollably. By December, doctors surgically inserted a defibrillator to regulate my heart's rhythm. Though it gave me some stability, I was not able to return to my regular activities, such as going to school. Walking up a flight of stairs was a challenge. In February 2002, my name was added to the heart transplant list. I was put in a tough situation, but had no other choice but to accept.
Thus began the wait for a donor. With so few donors in Canada, I knew it wasn't going to be easy. As my health became frail, and with no hearts available, I had no other option, but to go on a mechanical heart to sustain me until a donor could be found. Mechanical hearts had been used before, but a patient could not stay on one forever. I was on mine for 11 months. On May 11, 2003, after waiting 15 months for a heart, I finally got the call for a potential match.
Nick at John Abbott with mechanical heart.
The surgery (by Dr Renzo Ceceri, Dr Nadia Giannetti and team) was a success, apart from a few minor setbacks. After a few months of recovering my strength, I was able to get back to playing sports and living a normal life. That September, I returned to John Abbott College to study sciences, and hopefully pursue a career in the health sciences.
I have been promoting organ donation in the community and in schools by telling my story to all who care to listen. The hospital calls me regularly to mentor patients on mechanical hearts and those going through the transplant process. Heart transplant patients, their families and the medical team at the Royal Victoria Hospital have a special bond.
Nick's story was shared in a documentary on CTV Montreal called: "In a heartbeat" by journalist Caroline Van Vlaardingen. On learning of Nick's passing, a follow up story was aired October 15, 2010.
Outside the classroom, Nick worked part time in the Casgrain Equipment Room and Registrar’s Office of John Abbott College, as well as being the scorekeeper for Islander basketball games. Nick made an impression on many staff and teachers as a caring, courageous and upbeat young man who was an inspiration to many. As a member of the Montreal basketball referee’s association, an annual rookie award is named after him.
Nick score keeping at John Abbott with mechanical heart.
The World Transplant Games in 2005 introduced Nick to a special community of people. Participating in golf and volleyball, he made many lasting friendships with his Canadian teammates.
In 2007, Nick headed to Edmonton for the Canadian Transplant Games, riding high on the excitement of more competition and friendships that spanned the country.
After graduating from the science program in the winter of 2005, he turned to McGill University, beginning his degree in Physiology. For a semester, he experienced living in downtown Montreal with three roommates: Kieran, Matt and Ben. At McGill, Nick joined the Ex-Yugoslav Group which led to learning the Serbian language and a study excursion to Belgrade for 6 months.
Unfortunately, 6 years after the heart transplant, Nick's transplanted heart began to show signs of deterioration. It soon became evident that his only option for long-term survival was for him to receive a new heart. He was placed, once again, on the heart transplant list. With this turn of events, Nick decided to travel: Chicago with his parents, Las Vegas and Kelowna with his uncles and a whirlwind tour of Europe: Ireland with the Weil Family, Germany hosted by the Menz Family, Italy, Croatia and Serbia with his Serbian friends.
Nick was always surrounded by the best of friends. Despite health challenges, he remained courageous, actively pursuing a variety of interests: basketball, golf, travel, video games, cars, music, designer clothes and gourmet food. He was an eloquent and passionate spokesperson for organ transplant donation.
Nick passed away on October 10, 2010 at the family chalet on Lake Notre Dame in the Laurentians with his parents by his side.
The Nicholas Sidorenko Memorial Scholarship was created in 2010. It has been awarded to a full time Science or Pathways to Science student who is involved in extracurricular activities and, preferably, has faced major health challenges.
(c/o The John Abbott College Foundation, 21275 Lakeshore Rd., Sainte-Anne-de-Bellevue, Québec H9X 3L9)
Here is a testimonial from scholarship winner:
My name is Don Daniel Ocay and I am a recipient of the Nicholas Sidorenko Scholarship (June 2015). This scholarship made a huge difference in my life. Not only did the scholarship help me have an extra edge to finance my university studies on my own, it boosted my motivation and determination to follow my passion in human sciences. In June 2018, I completed a B.Sc. with a major in Physiology and a minor in Biotechnology. I am completing my second year of my Ph.D. in Experimental Surgery conducting research in Paediatric Pain. Pediatric Pain is a passion of mine, especially since I experienced severe pain as a child and was eventually diagnosed with Henoch-Schonlein purpura at the age of 9. However, that did not stop my perseverance to always see the light in my dark times and strive for success.
I would like to thank the Nicholas Sidorenko Scholarship once again for reminding me to strive for big objectives despite any obstacles that may be encountered.
- Melanie Barbusci
- Jean-Francois Mondoux
- Zander Weil
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