Ottawa Senators owner Eugene Melnyk is in need of a liver transplant, team president Cyril Leeder said Thursday.
Melnyk, 55, has been dealing with major health issues since mid-January and was hospitalized because of liver-related issues three weeks ago.
"The need is very urgent and the family has exhausted their local internal network and we wouldn't be making the public plea unless it was a very urgent and serious situation," Leeder said. "This is a life-threatening situation."
NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman issued this statement:
"Our thoughts and prayers are with Eugene Melnyk. We hope a suitable donor is found quickly."
Leeder said he learned Wednesday night of the need for a public plea for a liver donor for Melnyk. The donor needs to be a healthy adult between the ages of 18 and 55. The process involves the removal of a portion of the donor's liver so it can be transplanted into the recipient patient.
An application must be filled out and numerous tests are required in Toronto to determine whether an individual is a match. Leeder was adamant that the process needs to happen immediately.
"Eugene was consulted throughout the process and we had to convince him about it," Leeder said. "But it got to the point where we told him a public plea was necessary. He has the rarest of blood types (AB). A living donor does not need to match the AB but a deceased donor does.
In his situation, though, he's not really a candidate for a deceased donor; but if he gets one, they will take advantage of it."
Senators doctor Don Chow stressed the urgency of the situation.
"We do have a serious critical condition where without a live donor transplant, one will decease with this condition, so this is basically where I came involved," Chow said. "As a physician, you have to try and get the word out to those who can make a difference. In this case, somewhere out there is somebody who will be a live donor, who will be a match, and go through all the vigorous testing."
Gary O'Byrne, regional manager of the Canadian Liver Foundation, knows first-hand the benefits of a living liver donation.
"When my granddaughter was 5 months old, she required a liver transplant, and my daughter was tested within three days and approved to be a donor for her," O'Byrne said. "The liver went into my granddaughter and within an hour of getting the liver she was totally perfect. My daughter went from being totally healthy to losing a piece of her liver, but within a week she was functioning fine."
In November, it was announced that Senators general manager Bryan Murray is battling Stage 4 cancer. In April, assistant coach Mark Reeds died of cancer at the age of 55.
"It's been a very difficult year," Leeder said. "I think people pull together and we've seen the determination of our team. Bryan really gives us strength, and we found out about this late [Wednesday] night. We tried to rally around it [Thursday] morning and everybody is working hard to help find a solution. We find strength from each other."
Melnyk has owned the Senators since 2003. The Senators have qualified for the Stanley Cup Playoffs eight times in 11 seasons and reached the Stanley Cup Final in 2007.
For additional information on how to become of liver donor, call (613) 599-0100 or go online to http://www.uhn.ca/MOT/PatientsFamilies/Clinics_Tests/Documents/MOT_PF_CC_LivingDonor_DonorHealthHistoryForm.pdf