April Is Donor Awareness Month

Organ Donor Awareness Month is in April. Health Vantis talks about wait lists frequently, however, one that is seldom talked about is organ donation. We had the pleasure of speaking with Catherine Shaw, COO of The Organ Project, about their organization and how greatly needed organ donors, living and deceased are. The Organ Project is a non-for-profit Canadian charity that brings awareness to the importance of organ donation and its benefits for many people. Founder Eugene Melynk, Owner, Chairman and CEO of the Ottawa Senators Hockey Club, was inspired to start this charity after his own personal experience as a recipient of organ donation.

Currently, there are 4,500 Canadians on the waiting list to receive an organ.  An estimated 260 people will die this year as a result of not finding an organ in time. The reasons for an organ need could be due to trauma, virus, disease or organ failure. The most common needed organ is a kidney with approximately 76% of people needing one. The average time to wait varies per organ or tissue, however, with regards to the kidney, Ms. Shaw indicated that ‘the average wait could be 4-8 years. Those individuals remain on dialysis until they receive one’.

There are 2 types of organ donation: living and deceased.

Living donation is something you can do today. Many of these donations come from family members or friends of loved ones who have someone on the wait list in need, however, there doesn’t need to be a connection. Anyone can be considered to donate, even anonymously. Certain criteria must be met prior to. Some of the more common types of organs and tissues you can donate living are: lobe of the lung, portion of the liver and kidney, part of the pancreas, bone marrow or blood.

Deceased donation is when your organs are donated after you have deceased. As with living donation, certain criteria must be met and the person needs to be clinically brain dead. The use of tissue from a deceased organ donor can impact up to 75 individuals and 8 lives! Some of the tissues that can be donated are: cornea, skin, heart valves, bone, connective tissue, veins or upper body bones. The organs would include heart, pancreas, liver, (2) kidneys, (2) lungs and the small intestine. All donors are treated exactly like any other surgery and in the most human and respectful way.

Canada’s Donation Rates

Canada’s donation rates are below other countries such as the US, Spain or UK. But what is the reason? 90% of Canadians say they support organ donation, however, only 20% are signed up. When asking Ms. Shaw as to why that might be she said that ‘some individuals fear that if they are an organ donor and are in critical condition, the doctor won’t try as hard to save their life’. According to Ms. Shaw, this is false. When someone is in critical condition, the critical care team is not even aware at that point whether or not that person is an organ donor. The doctors try all life saving efforts.  When there is no clinical chance of survival left, the individual is referred to the organ donation team. The family would have the option at that time to decide if they consent to the donation.

When asking Ms. Shaw what the most important message The Organ Project wants to bring awareness to she said ‘to support the idea of passing along their organs could be the greatest gift you could give someone for a second chance at life’.

The process for registering is very simple and quick.  The database is connected nationally. For information on how you can be a donor, please visit their website at: https:// www.theorganproject.net

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