Monday, September 27, 2004

Organ Donation Awareness

It was very gratifying to see extensive coverage on the state of organ donation and transplantation in Ontario this past week. I am pleased to be a volunteer speaker for the Trillium Gift of Life Network in Ontario and was very happy to play a role in spreading the word about organ donation by making presentations to the Rotary Sunrise Club in Cambridge and the Probus Club in Waterdown, as you can see by the photos. For larger and more photos browse at Organ Donation Events
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The Toronto Star and several of it's affiliate newspapers such as the Hamilton Spectator and Kitchener Record gave very extensive coverage. As a matter of fact, it's the most coverage I've ever seen at one time and these papers should be commended for their wonderful support.

This past Saturday there must have been six or seven pages devoted to transplants. Dr. Gary Levy, Director of the Transplantation Program at University Health Network and University of Toronto, was interviewed and given a very prominent half-page color photo of him in the operating room ready for surgery. This immediately caught the readers' eyes and drew attention to the articles.

But, after all is said and done, the sad state of affairs is that organ donation in Canada is very, very low compared to the rest of the world.

Here's the hard, cold facts: The organ donor rate in Ontario at the end of 2003 was 12.3 donors per million people with Canada as a whole not much better at 13.5 donors per million people. The one bright spot is London, Ontario which has a rate of 25.6 donors per million people.

Many U.S. centers have donor rates much higher than Ontario's and the U.S. as a country has a rate of 21.5. In Spain, Austria and Belgium, where consent to donate organs is presumed unless an opt-out clause is exercised, rates are from a low of 21.65 per million donation rate in Belgium to a high of 33.68 in Spain.

We can all do our part to help increase the rate of organ donation. One donor can save or enhance the lives of up to fifty different recipients.

Organs and tissues that can be donated include the heart, liver, kidneys, pancreas, lungs, small bowel, stomach, whole eyes or corneas, heart valves, bone and soft musculoskeletal tissue, such as ligaments; cardiovascular tissue, which includes the thoracic aorta, the abdominal aorta with iliac arteries, saphenous veins and femoral vessels; and skin.

Once your have made the decision to give the greatest gift one can give to another human being, the Gift of Life, sign your donor card and tell your loved ones so they can understand and respect your wishes in the future.

Ontario is now starting to make great strides in promoting Organ Donation Awareness since the establishment of the Trillium Gift of Life Network under the Trillium Gift of Life Act passed by the Ontario Government in late 2000.

As a lung transplant recipient, it was easy for me to tell my story and also to say how grateful I am and will always be for the courageous decision my donor and their family made to give me the gift of life.

The Probus club members I spoke to last week are mainly retired Rotarians and they were surprised to learn that older citizens can be both donor candidates and transplant recipients and that they certainly should sign their donor cards and let their families know their wishes.

The oldest organ donor on record was 92 and the oldest tissue donor was 102 years old. This past March, in Omaha, Nebraska, 85 year old Henry Wendt received a kidney from his daughter Karen Beckley, which made him the oldest American to receive an organ transplant from a living donor.

To get your donor card contact: Trillium Gift of Life Network, 155 University Ave., Suite 1440, Toronto, Ont. M5H 3B7 1-800-263-2833 or go to

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Thursday, September 16, 2004

Jeannie Haines - Retirement Reception
Sponsored by the Lung Transplant Support Group

The conference room was jam packed yesterday as lung transplant recipients, their spouses and support people, along with many friends and hospital staff, gathered to honor Jeannie Haines, Psychiatric Nurse for the Lung Transplant Program at Toronto General Hospital in Toronto, Canada.

There was so much love in the room for Jeannie that I can still feel it now. I never had an opportunity to interact with Jeannie other than socially at a few meetings or when I ran into her in passing at the hospital, so I did not know the depth of love, feeling and emotion that people had for Jeannie until I heard some of their tributes. I knew something special was happening when so many people showed up. Some even drove more than 100 miles to be there.

I was very fortunate in that I was only on the waiting list for 25 days before receiving my single left-lung transplant in April of 2002. My operation was very smooth and I was discharged in a little over two weeks. However, others did not have it so easy. I talked with one person yesterday who has been on the waiting list for two years without getting that life-saving call. Some transplant recipients I have known remained in the hospital for months or a year post transplant, with uncertainty about the final outcome. Others on the waiting list expired before receiving a transplant because an organ donor was not found in time.

These can be very, very stressful times. Jeannie has always been there to give comfort and support, to listen, to give advice and to be available at all times. When one is diagnosed with a fatal lung disease and told they will soon die without a lung transplant, it is devastating; not only for the patient but for their family and friends as well. Mostly patients are told it's only a matter of a year or two and not much more than that.

Jeannie Haines has always been there as someone to turn to for a comforting and reassuring voice, not only for the patient but for their families and loved ones.

Jeannie has gone out of her way to visit patients in their hospital rooms, after her own working hours on numerous occations, and called them or their supports at home just to see how they were doing and to be there for them. She has helped so many patients and their support people it would probably take many pages to list them all.

But I did manage to take quite a few pictures at the reception and hopefully they will give you an idea of the love I'm talking about. I intend to re-name or caption the photos to identify everyone over the next few days but meanwhile you can browse to "Jeannie" at

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Tuesday, September 14, 2004

A New Beginning

Today marks the birth of my blog (short for web log or continuously updated web site). Hopefully, it will prove to be a successful resource for Organ Donation Awareness and Transplant Research Funding. I was rescued from death by receiving a single-lung transplant in April, 2002. Organ donation and transplant research are why I am alive today and I intend to be an advocate for both until the day I die.

The full story of my transplant at Toronto General Hospital in Toronto, Canada will be posted soon.

This will be a forum where people can ask questions, post comments, get answers to their problems and exchange information and ideas. News will be posted as it occurs and readers are encouraged to submit items of interest, web sites, coming events and any thing else you feel is appropriate.

I will be posting numerous links over the next few days so stay tuned.

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