Film about young woman's legacy dopes to ignite global campaign for organ donation
// Victoria Fawkes

On Mar. 27, 2010, the world lost a truly courageous soul. Her name was Eva Markvoort, and although her life only spanned two and a half decades, her existence helped to raise awareness for the debilitating disease that she battled. Markvoort suffered from Cystic Fibrosis (CF), a genetic disorder that causes thick mucus to form and lead to blockage, particularly in the lungs, which can lead to an infection.

In the last few years of Markvoort’s life, her struggles were recorded in the film 65_Redroses, also the name of her Livejournal blog. The film was directed by Philip Lyall, a lifetime friend of Markvoort, and Nimisha Mukerji, a film student at the University of British Columbia looking for a post-graduation project.

On Mar. 8, the film was shown at Capilano University, greeting a healthy turnout of those both familiar with Markvoort’s story and those who wanted to learn more. 65_Redroses has also been featured on CBC and has won numerous accreditations and awards. Additionally, as the film was completed before the death of Markvoort, a revised film released in 2009 that incorporates her death is now shown.

Markvoort was a theatre student at the University of Victoria, receiving her degree at her bedside, in addition to the Canadian Cystic Fibrosis Foundation’s Doug Summerhayes award and the Queen Elizabeth II Golden Jubilee Medal, awarded for her commitment to the cause of Cystic Fibrosis.

Markvoort blogged about her condition throughout her treatment, chronicling her lung transplant and eventual transplant rejection until her death. She was initially searching for support from other CF patients who had undergone the same challenges she was facing, but soon it became clear that she was supporting thousands of other CF patients as well as those with various challenges in their lives. The name of her LiveJournal blog, “65_Red Roses”, stems from the way children suffering from the disease often mispronounce “Cystic Fibrosis”. Markvoort’s favorite color, red, also influenced the name of her blog, which is now frequently updated by her family.

Markvoort had many passions, one of which was working with children. “She always worked in the summertime with kids, with Burnaby Parks and Recreation,” says Markvoort’s mother, Janet Brine. “She wanted to work in hospitals with kids, as a child play worker. I say work, but I really mean play, because that’s what they do with the kids, just to distract them and make them feel better.”

In 2009, Markvoort applied for a job that would allow her to fulfill her dream of working with children, and got the job, but was forced to turn it down because of her failing health.

Even in her final days, Markvoort dedicated herself to keeping in touch with her supporters, posting countless poems, pictures, and updates. However, as her condition grew worse, Markvoort knew that it was time to say goodbye. On Mar. 25, she wrote the last heartbreaking post on her blog.

“I am not managing, not managing at all. I'm drowning in the medications. I can't breathe. Every hour. Once an hour. I can't breathe. Something has to change,” she wrote to her supporters. Two days later at 9:30am, Markvoort passed away at Vancouver General Hospital.

After the showing of the documentary 65_Redroses at Capilano, the president of the university Dr. Kris Bulcroft, members of BC Transplant, and co-director of 65_Redroses, Nimisha Mukerji, were present to answer questions from the audience.

Proceeds from the screening went towards the cause that Markvoort advocated for so fiercely, the BC Transplant campaign urging people to become organ donors. A copy of 65_Redroses can now be found at the Capilano University Library. The documentary offers information on organ donation and transplants, the current state and future of public health campaigns, and facts on cystic fibrosis and organ donation, including just how many people are affected by organ donation.

It may not seem like it, but organ transplants are a lot more common than most people think. Even at Capilano University, many staff members and students have been recipients of new organs. Last year in B.C alone, 285 people received organ transplants. However, in that same year, there were 432 British Columbians that were still active on the waitlist. Today in Canada, there are more than 800,000 Canadians that are registered organ donors, but as we can learn from Markvoort, there is no greater gift than the gift of a donated organ. This is why the B.C. Transplant campaign urges you to consider registering as an organ donor, if you are not already one.

Markvoort communicated with her supporters in the social media network right up until her death, and as her postings reached people, so did her message of love, life, and hope. Even in Markvoort’s passing, her impact is still felt. And although Brine misses her daughter, she knows she is at peace and that her time on earth made an important influence.

“I think it was a message of hope that she sent. That’s something she always had with her, even in the final stages. I think the ones for whom that was most meaningful were the people who had challenges in their lives.”

//Victoria Fawkes, staff writer
//Graphics by Shannon Elliott

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