- Associated Press - Monday, May 18, 2015

TORONTO (AP) - Ottawa Senators owner Eugene Melnyk thanked the public for its support Monday in what he calls the “biggest battle” of his life - his urgent appeal for a liver transplant.

The 55-year-old Melnyk was hospitalized three weeks ago because of liver-related complications. His condition is considered critical.

He said in a statement his health became more critical the past few weeks, and friends and family persuaded him to go public after numerous potential live-liver donors were not a match.

More than 500 people have offered to donate part of their liver to Melnyk. One of his doctors has said he could undergo surgery by the end of the week.

More than a dozen candidates have been selected to go through the donor screening process, according to the team. The candidates are all at different stages of that process.

A living donor transplant is Melnyk’s best option because he has rare AB blood. A live donor doesn’t need to have a matching blood type, but an organ from a deceased donor must be a perfect match.

“I have been overwhelmed by the outpouring of support from the public and the media. It is truly heartwarming to feel loved by so many people,” Melnyk said in the statement in which he also thanked medical staff at the University Health Network and Toronto General Hospital.

“Words cannot even begin to express how thankful my family and I are for your expressions of support, your prayers, and your unconditional desire to help me in the biggest battle of my life.”

Melnyk also stressed the importance of organ donation, and the Senators said Saturday his health was stable and he was in good spirits.

“You have lifted my spirits, and in the process have given me all the strength I need at this difficult time,” Melnyk said. “Thank you from the bottom of my heart.”

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