Parksville pal Donates the gift of life

Local pair show the true nature of friendship with kidney donation

Janet Ovington and Rick Barber are encouraging people across the region to sign up as organ donors.

Janet Ovington and Rick Barber are encouraging people across the region to sign up as organ donors.

Janet Ovington spent six years slowly getting sicker as she languished on the kidney transplant list, or so she thought.

“I had hallucinations, I was itchy, couldn’t breath, I got the worst headaches ever and I was throwing up all the time. When puking becomes normal you know things aren’t right,” she said of her condition just a few months ago.

In December it turned out she may not have been on the right list the whole time and a specialist told her it could be another six years before she made it to the top of the list.

Many people die before they make it to the top of that list, including 82 in 2010.

That’s when her best friend Rick Barber stepped in and put his name on the living donor list, bumping Ovington up the list and helping two strangers along the way.

“I was watching her go down hill and I knew she couldn’t do six more years,” he said.

Barber wasn’t a direct match for his friend, but officials were able to work out a chain reaction of donations across the country.

In mid-May Barber flew to Montreal where his kidney was removed and given to an anonymous recipient. That recipient was in a similar position with a friend or relative willing to donate, but not a direct match, so they donated to another person, who’s partner donated the kidney that Ovington received in Vancouver the next day.

“They said three people got kidneys because of my choice,” Barber said, embarrassed by the attention. “I didn’t want any credit for it,” he said after The News convinced him to help tell their story.

Before the transplant Ovington was down to five per cent kidney function and was traveling to Nanaimo for four hours of dialysis four times a week.

Just six weeks later she is up to 84 per cent function, walking up the Moilliet hill and has started back at work, despite originally being told it could take four to six months.

Fighting going stir crazy, she is happy her doctor signed off on her early return to work the Parksville McDonald’s.

While Barber’s kidney boosted Ovington’s energy and health, the loss of his kidney dropped him down a couple levels.

His kidney function level hasn’t been checked recently, but he said he feels like he’s getting close to fully recovered. Donors’ remaining kidney “picks up it’s socks and steps up,” as Barber described it, usually getting up to about 75 per cent of their previous overall function.

That doesn’t phase him in the least, “for what it cost me it was well worth it to help my best friend,” he said.

While live donation is a serious and complex choice, they both urge everyone to register as an organ donor for when people are done with their organs.

For more on kidney disease check The Kidney Foundation of Canada which Ovington and Barber both said was incredibly helpful and supportive, at

To register as a donor visit or pick up the forms at Drivers Service Centres, ICBC brokers, most doctor’s offices and pharmacies, Overwaitea and Save On Foods.


Just Posted

(File photo)
The Parksville Civic and Technology Centre at 100 Jensen Ave. (PQB News file photo)
Parksville 2020 annual report now ready for public feedback

Documents can be viewed online; comments or questions to be submitted before noon on July 5, 2021

FILE – Perry Bellegarde, National Chief of the Assembly of First Nations, takes part in an event on Parliament Hill in Ottawa on Tuesday, July 7, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
Indigenous Peoples Day must be a ‘call to action’, says Assembly of First Nations chief

Discovery of children at Kamloops residential school site must lead to change, Perry Bellegarde says

A Lotto 6/49 ticket purchased in Parksville for the June 19, 2021 draw is a $3M winner. (Submitted photo)
Winning Lotto 6/49 ticket worth $3M purchased in Parksville

Lottery prize winners have 52 weeks to claim jackpot

A person stands in a tower on the perimeter of the Number 3 Detention Center in Dabancheng in western China’s Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region on April 23, 2021. Human rights groups and Western nations led by the United States, Britain and Germany accused China of massive crimes against the Uyghur minority and demanded unimpeded access for U.N. experts at a virtual meeting on Wednesday, May 12, 2021 denounced by China as “politically motivated” and based on “lies.” THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP-Mark Schiefelbein
VIDEO: Trudeau demands truth from China about Uyghurs

PM says Canada has admitted broken Indigenous relationship, unlike China on Uyghurs

Kelowna Mayor Colin Basran, middle right, participates in a ribbon-cutting ceremony in honour of the launch of Kelowna’s plasma donor centre at Orchard Plaza Mall on June 22. From left to right: Canadian Blood Services’ business development manager Janna Pantella, Canadian Blood Services’ operational excellence manager Tyler Burke, Kelowna Mayor Colin Basran and Canadian Blood Services’ centre manager Janine Johns. (Aaron Hemens/Capital News)
B.C.’s first dedicated plasma donor centre opens in Kelowna

The Kelowna location is the third dedicated plasma donor to open in Canada

Children walk with their parents to Sherwood Park Elementary in North Vancouver for the first day back to school on Sept. 10, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
Study reassures parents, teachers that COVID-19 infrequently shared at school

Federally funded study in Vancouver finds risk in the classroom and in the community identical

Conservative MP Kevin Waugh rises during Question Period in the House of Commons Tuesday April 13, 2021 in Ottawa. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Single-game sports betting about to become legal in Canada

Senate passes bill to take sports gambling away from overseas agencies

Point Roberts is part of the mainland United States but not physically connected to it, to reach the community by land one must pass through Canada. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
Closed Canadian border leaves Point Roberts’ only grocery store on verge of closure

‘We’re Americans but we’re not attached to America. It’s easy to forget we’re here,’ says owner Ali Hayton

The Somass Sawmill sits idle in early May 2021. While the kilns have been in use occasionally, and the lot has been used to store woodchips this spring, the mill has been curtailed since July 27, 2017. (SUSAN QUINN/ Alberni Valley News)
Port Alberni to expropriate Somass Sawmill from Western Forest Products

Sawmill has been ‘indefinitely’ curtailed since 2017

Robin Sanford and her fiance Simon Park were married in an impromptu ceremony at Abbotsford Regional Hospital on June 16. (Submitted photo)
Mom dies day after witnessing daughter’s hospital wedding in Abbotsford

Nurses help arrange impromptu ceremony in 3 hours for bride and groom

B.C. Finance Minister Selina Robinson with Premier John Horgan after the budget speech Tuesday, April 20, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito
B.C. home owner grant won’t be altered, despite expert advice

Tax break for residences worth up to $1.6 million too popular

B.C. conservation officer Sgt. Todd Hunter said a black bear is believed to have killed local livestock. (THE NEWS/files)
Black bear believed to have killed miniature donkey in Maple Ridge

Trap set for predator that has been killing livestock

Most Read