Donating the gift of life. Cambridge resident Pam Ditner, who is on a waiting list for a new heart, says while conversations about becoming an organ donor can be difficult, the decision can save lives.LISA RUTLEDGE, TIMES STAFF
“If you’re ever faced with having to donate, it’s going to be the worst day in your life.” - Pam Ditner
By Lisa Rutledge Cambridgetimes.ca, Cambridge, Ontario
There really is no easy or polite way to wade into a conversation about becoming an organ donor.
But somehow, braving that brief awkwardness pales sharply when compared to the realization that consenting to be an organ and tissue donor could save up to eight lives and enhance 75 more.
Cambridge resident Pam Ditner will be one of several local volunteers hoping to make discussions about organ and tissue donation a little easier to entertain.
As a volunteer with the local chapter of the Life Donation Awareness Association of Waterloo Region, Ditner will be at the Cambridge Center community kiosk Friday as a way to educate the public about the subject and kick off National Organ and Tissue Donation Awareness Week (NOTDAW) in Canada, April 16 to 22.
“It’s never a great topic,” admits Ditner.
“If you’re ever faced with having to donate, it’s going to be the worst day in your life.”
Still, perspective is everything, she maintains. It’s more about thinking about giving the gift of life.
And as strange as it may sound, making those decisions ahead of time can be comforting, especially for those left behind when a loved one dies. Knowing wishes in advance can deliver a little peace in the midst of tragedy.
Volunteers with the donation association will be at the mall, from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m., and will answer questions, as well as dispel medical and religious myths relating to donations.
They’ll also have consent forms available for the new health card linked forms from the Trillium Gift of Life Network, a provincial government organization that matches those on waiting lists for donations and those who have consented to be donors.
While the 45-year-old Cambridge resident is devoted to raising awareness about organ and tissue donation, her role is much more personal. As she sits on her family room couch explaining the benefits of “giving”, Ditner holds a purse-backpack containing two batteries that keep her alive.
Ditner, who was diagnosed with congestive heart failure in 1995, is waiting for a new heart and is currently kept alive thanks to a surgically implanted heart pump called a left ventricular assist device or LVAD.
She’s had two close calls, one in early November and another last month. The first couldn’t proceed due to issues with antibodies, which would have caused rejection.
High hopes were dashed, however, Ditner never lost sight of the big picture.
“It was a good heart and somebody else got it, so it’s OK,” she said with a smile.
The second time fell through because of the donor heart showed signs of heart disease. Those occasions never transpired in a new heart for Ditner, but they do provide encouraging signs that chances are getting better every day for those on waiting lists.
Thanks to changes made by Trillium Gift of Life Network and increased awareness, the 1,700 people on waiting lists on any given day has dropped to 1,500. But sadly, on average, one in three dies waiting.
It’s a ratio that volunteers like Ditner hope to see change. That’s why they’re reaching out to communities to raise awareness. That includes correcting assumptions that signing a driver’s licence is enough. But it’s simply not, explained Ditner.
“The reality is that when you’re at the hospital, somebody has taken your wallet home.”
New donation consent forms ensure hospitals have access to databases that will increase chances of ensuring that donors’ gifts help save lives.
Friday’s community event at Cambridge Center won’t focus on generating more consent forms, though. It will be about starting discussions.
“Even if you don’t sign a form at the mall, we’d like you go home and have a conversation.”
For more information about local Life Donation Awareness Association, visit www.lifedonationawareness.com.
“You Have the Power to Save Lives – Register to be an organ and tissue donor & Tell Your Loved Ones of Your Decision”
Register to be a donor in Ontario at Trillium Gift of Life Network NEW for Ontario: recycleMe.org - Learn The Ins & Outs Of Organ And Tissue Donation. Register Today!
For other Canadian provinces click here
For other Canadian provinces click here
In the United States, be sure to find out how to register in your state at ShareYourLife.org or Download Donor Cards from OrganDonor.Gov
In Great Britain, register at NHS Organ Donor Register
In Australia, register at Australian Organ Donor Register
Your generosity can save or enhance the lives of up to fifty people with heart, kidneys, liver, lungs, pancreas and small intestine transplants (see allotransplantation). One tissue donor can help by donating skin, corneas, bone, tendon, ligaments and heart valves
Has your life been saved by an organ transplant? "Pay it forward" and help spread the word about the need for organ donation - In the U.S. another person is added to the national transplant waiting list every 11 minutes and 18 people die each day waiting for an organ or tissue transplant. Organs can save lives, corneas renew vision, and tissue may help to restore someone's ability to walk, run or move freely without pain. Life Begins with You