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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