April was Organ and Tissue Donor Awareness Month, but there are so many reasons we should be thinking about organ and tissue donation every day of the year.
While monthly campaigns are an amazing way to spread awareness and drive up registration and money for certain causes, we must remember that these issues live on and affect the everyday lives of so many individuals on the transplant list, as well as their loved ones.
In Ontario specifically, there are over 1,500 people waiting for a lifesaving organ transplant.
And in your life time, you are five times more likely to need an organ transplant than to have the opportunity to donate one.
Every three days, someone will die because they didn’t get their transplant in time.
Yet despite these harrowing facts, some communities in Ontario only have an organ donor registration rate of 10%.
This is extremely problematic, especially when you consider the fact that only 3% of hospital deaths occur in circumstances that could actually lead to an organ donation.
This is because the patient needs to be sustained on a ventilator.
So in other words, just because you are registered does not necessarily mean that your organs will be in a condition to be used.
However, this is not necessarily the case for tissue donation.
This can take place in most cases after someone has died, so long as the tissue is suitable for transplantation.
According to Be A Donor, Sault Ste. Marie ranked 55 out of 170 communities, sitting at a registration rate of 46%, with 31,138 health card holders registered as donors out of 68,157, putting us 12% above the Ontario average of 33%.
Maggie Braido, local Saultite whose mother is currently in the process of trying to donate a kidney to her father, Chris Braido, who has been diagnosed with a rare kidney ailment, shares what she has learned through being impacted by kidney illness,
“I’ve learned so much about people’s views on organ donation, and came to the conclusion that the reason we have a constant organ shortage and why so many Canadians die on the transplant list is because not enough people are educated about it.”
She continued, “The people I’ve reached out to to consider registering either didn’t know what organ donation really was or wanted to be a donor 100% but just didn’t know how to register or communicate that with their loved ones. The education aspect is so important.”
As a community, we have proven time and time again that we are capable of coming together in solidarity for causes like this.
According to the stats from Be A Donor, the Sault has 24 active registration drives, which can be started by individuals or organizations to encourage other members of the community to officially register to become organ and tissue donors.
You would essentially set up a page on why organ and tissue donation is important to you and share it with friends and family in the hopes that they register as well.
There are some really creative ways to hold a successful drive, like challenging another company to see who can get the most registrations.
So you may be wondering at this point, ‘how can I register?’
There are a couple different ways.
Firstly, you can head down to the nearest Service Ontario to register. As long as you are 16 years or older and have a valid health card, you are eligible.
it is ultimately your own decision, so you can choose to talk to your family about your wishes – but you don’t have to.
It is completely free – and the gift you can give is priceless.
You can register, check, or update your consent here. It is that simple.
If you are still aren’t convinced, here’s some quick facts that may change your mind…
- Donor registration gives families clear evidence of their loved one’s donation decision, which relieves the extremely burdening decision on the shoulders of your loved ones come that difficult time
- One donor can save up to eight lives through organ donation and up to seventy five through tissue donation
- You can’t be too old donate. Age does not disqualify anyone from being a donor so long as you are of consenting age!
- Medical history doesn’t necessarily stop you from being a donor
- Organ donation does not affect funeral plans
Remember that living donations are an option, too. While they are a huge undertaking, there is no greater gift than life for those suffering from, for example, kidney failure.
Living donations are possible with the kidney, parts of the liver, lungs, small bowel, and the pancreas.
To give some perspective on the need for kidney donors, in 2013, nearly 80% of Canadians on the transplant list were waiting for a kidney.
While a kidney transplant is not a cure, it represents the possible improvement to health and quality of life for many people living with kidney failure.
For more information on the Kidney Foundation specifically on how you can get involved locally, click here.
We also encourage you to check out Be A Donor, an excellent resource for donor information, stories, and where you can start your own registration drive.