Monday, May 16, 2011

Social media sign-up campaign brings a welcome boost to B.C. organ-donor numbers

B.C. Transplant's leadership in promoting organ and tissue donation awareness is encouraging and their innovative ideas are an inspiration to those of us seeking ways to improve the rate of organ and tissue donation everywhere.

VANCOUVER — Cyrus McEachern and his friend Eva Markvoort, a double lung transplant recipient, transformed a single photo into a social media campaign that more than doubled online donor registration rates at B.C. Transplant. (see also a wonderful journal where friends continue Eva's legacy)

B.C. Transplant campaign photographer Cyrus McEachern, with his illustrated photo of the late Eva Markvoort in Vancouver on May 11, 2011. The photo-illustration is being used in the current transplant campaign.
Photograph by: Ian Smith, Vancouver Sun


Markvoort died in March of last year, at the age of 25, while waiting for a second lung transplant. She didn’t live to see the success of her work.

“She said she wasn’t ready to go because she hadn’t made enough of an impact,” said McEachern, who spent a lot of time with Markvoort during her final few months.

“But the results of the campaign are an example of how her message and her inspiration continues to benefit the transplant community,”

In 2010, about 173 donors registered online each week. But that weekly rate jumped to about 454 in the first week of the campaign, called “Live life. Pass it on,” which launched April 18.

One organ donor can potentially save seven lives by donating their heart, liver, pancreas, two kidneys and two lungs. You can register to donate all of your organs, some of them, or none of them, but more than three million British Columbians have yet to register their decision.

Less than one per cent of deaths can result in potential organ donation, said Allison Colina, B.C. Transplant spokeswoman.

“The increase [in online registration] is great, but we want to see the numbers grow,” she said.

“For most of us, we register our decision and go on with our lives, but these numbers mean a lot to those on the wait-list.”

There are about 400 people waiting for transplants in B.C. On average, they wait from three months for a liver to 63 months for an adult kidney, according to B.C. Transplant statistics from 2010.

The effects of the online campaign have already started to fade. There were 274 registrations recorded in the first week of May.

The campaign uses Facebook to promote online donor registration. It also includes advertisements on public transit and on television that feature photos developed by MacEachern and Markvoort.

The campaign started when MacEachern, a University of B.C. medical student, and Markvoort, who had already had one lung transplant, won a cardiology-themed art contest. They entered a photo of Markvoort with a human heart painted on her chest.

MacEachern had a eureka moment while sitting at the beach a year later.

“I thought it’d be cool to round up transplant recipients and Eva could paint on them,” said MacEachern.

They took seven photos altogether. Each model had the organ they received painted on to their bodies. They then took them to B.C. Transplant to start the campaign.

To make the campaign happen, B.C. Transplant sought the help of Rethink, a Vancouver-based ideas and advertising agency.

Ailsa Brown, partner and group account director at Rethink, headed the project. She assigned the work to Jordan Cohen and Leia Rogers.

“They both had personal stories related to organ donation within their immediate families,” she said.

Cohen and Rogers put together the photos and ads, titled the campaign, and developed a Facebook application that allows registered organ donors to tag their profile pictures with the line, “I gave my heart.”

Project director Brown said the tag line is a play on words.

“When you make that commitment to sign up, you really are giving your heart,” she said. “Not necessarily the organ itself, but your gift of life and your soul.”

Amanda Poch was one of the models in the campaign. She received a liver transplant five years ago, when she was 20.

Poch said she is excited about the results of the campaign, but she urges more people to register.

“There are over 350 people in this province waiting for their chance at life, how can you deny them that?” she said. “It’s in everyone’s best interest to register as a donor — just on the off chance you might need one or give one.”

MacEachern agreed with Poch’s sentiments and was equally amazed by the outcome.

“It makes my eyes water up a little bit,” he said on hearing about the campaign’s success. “Even getting a few more people to register could mean saving dozens of peoples lives.”

Markvoort was the subject of a 2009 documentary, 65_Redroses, a triple-award winner at the Vancouver International Film Festival.

© Copyright (c) The Victoria Times Colonist

“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
For other Canadian provinces click here
In the United States, be sure to find out how to register in your state at (Go to top right to select your state)
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

1 comment:

Marianne said...

What an impressive campaign, for such an important cause. So glad there are people out there like you raising awareness about organ donation.