Transplants: The Gift of Life: Organ and Tissue Donation

by Jennifer Tracey

What you need to know about organ and tissue donation

Each year, thousands of Ontarians get a second chance to live life to its fullest thanks to the kindness of people who have given the gift of life and donated organs and tissue. But many more are still waiting. Currently, more than 1700 people are on the waiting list in Ontario and every three days someone dies waiting for an organ transplant.

It doesn't have to be this way. One donor can save the lives of up to seven people and enhance the lives of up to 75 others through tissue donation.

Trillium Gift of Life Network is the not-for-profit agency of the Government of Ontario responsible for planning, promoting, coordinating and supporting organ and tissue donation across Ontario and improving the system so that more lives can be saved.

Organ and tissue donation for transplantation is a critical component of our health care system. Not only does organ and tissue donation improve the lives of thousands of people each year, it saves lives. It also provides families the opportunity to honour a loved one's wish to donate.

Why Donate?

  • Everyone is a potential organ and tissue donor, regardless of their age. To date, the oldest Canadian organ donor was over 90 years of age while the oldest tissue donor was 102 years old.
  • Most religious groups endorse organ donation and/or respect the individual's choice. Beliefs about tissue donation vary as some groups may consider tissue donation life enhancing, and distinguish it from organ donation which is more often life saving.
  • Ultimately the ability to become an organ and tissue donor depends on several factors including the health of the organs and tissue at the time of death.
  • Recovery of organs and tissue is carried out with respect and dignity. It does not interfere with funeral practices and no one will know about your gift of life unless your family tells them.
  • Organs and tissue that can be donated after death include the heart, liver, kidneys, pancreas, lungs, small bowel, stomach, corneas, heart valves, bone and skin.
  • Studies show that donating the organs and tissue of a loved one who has died can provide immediate comfort and long-lasting consolation to family members in their grieving

It is important that individuals are educated on the facts around organ and tissue donation so that they can make an informed decision. It is just as important to share your intentions with your family so they are aware of your decision and can fulfill your wishes to be an organ and/or tissue donor and give the gift of life to others.

For more information or to download an organ donor card, please go to www.giftoflife.on.ca.

CNM

Rizwana

Diagnosed with diabetes at the age of 9 in her native Kenya, Rizwana has led a full, though not always fully "healthy," life. By the time Rizwana and her husband moved to Canada, she found her condition had deteriorated significantly.

From 1997 on, dialysis provided a difficult but necessary bridge to what she really required: a transplant. By 2003, her situation was urgent. Placed on the transplant list in her home community of London, Ontario in March 2004, the "call" came in August of that year. Someone who had made a decision, long before, to give life to someone else donated a kidney and pancreas to Rizwana.

A deeply involved TGLN volunteer, Rizwana travels extensively across the province, sharing, teaching and touching lives. "My donor did not leave me with two gifts, but with four. A kidney. A pancreas. Determination - and inspiration


Karen Nicole
"While living with kidney failure, and doing dialysis, there were always limitations. My doctor's told me that my kidney began working on the operating table and it had to be true because I woke up in "recovery" feeling better than I had in years! After my transplant I felt limit-less -- I dashed all of the small ideas I'd had and traded them in for larger dreams. I moved forward with a new confidence not just because I felt so much better physically but also because I was given the rare opportunity to greet a new, much larger vantage point, and I'm still enjoying the view!" - Karen Nicole


Sarah
Sue's eldest daughter, Sarah, was struck by a car and died in 2001. Sue and her two daughters, Sarah and Katie, had discussed organ and tissue donation as a family two years earlier, and all had signed their donor cards. At ages 14 and 12, Sarah and Katie proudly carried their cards with them wherever they went, and openly supported organ and tissue donation. Honouring Sarah's wishes meant donating her organs and tissue, an act that saved lives while changing her mother's life completely. Susan is now an activist - a dedicated member of Trillium Gift of Life Network's Donor Family Advisory Council and a passionate supporter of M.A.D.D.