Have a heart … and save a life

Are you an organ and tissue donor? I thought I was.

Are you an organ and tissue donor? I thought I was.

I remember many years ago agreeing to become one when I was renewing my driver’s license. But after talking to Shelley Hunt and Jessica Royan, and noticing it no longer indicated that I was a donor on my licence, I wasn’t so sure anymore.

“Canada’s organ donation rate is among the world’s worst,” Jessica told me. “It’s become a national crisis and people are needlessly suffering and dying because of it.”

Since people are no longer asked if they’d like to be a donor when registering for car insurance, there has been a significant decline in donors. Yet the need for them has continued to increase.

When Shelley and Jess learned of our nation’s plight, and the fact that a miniscule 15 out of every million people actually become organ donors, they decided to create the “Because I Can Project” to accomplish two things: create awareness about Canada’s organ shortage, and petition for a change to the registration process.

The compassionate young women, and their new project partner Levi Sampson, are proposing an opt-out program because it has been so successful in other countries.

“Spain is ranked as the world’s highest for organ donations,” Jessica said. “They are an excellent model for Canada and other countries like the United States that desperately need a better system, as well.”

With a new legislation recognizing that each person of a legal age is a presumed organ donor, this would mean people would have to de-register their name if they didn’t want to participate.

“This wouldn’t impinge on a person’s right to decide the fate of their organs,” she said. “But since 95 per cent of people say they would accept an organ if they needed one, and nearly the same amount say they would want to be a donor in the event of their own death, it makes more sense to assume most people would want in than out.”

Deceased donors can save the lives of up to eight people, and help dozens more. Shelley, the mother of two young children, isn’t waiting until she dies before becoming a donor, though. She signed up to anonymously donate her kidney. Since meeting a five-year-old boy named Aiden who is in extreme need of one himself, she is now in a partner exchange with him.

“I’m not a match,” she said. “But because we’re partnered, that means that as soon as I’m able to give my kidney to someone, he will be moved to the top of the list and get one, as well.”

Shelley has received some criticism and concern for risking her life, but after extensive research on becoming a live donor, she is confident in her decision and the safety of the procedure.

“It might seem crazy, but it will actually put me in a safer position than most other Canadians. When you become a live donor, you’re automatically moved to the top of the list, and if I ever need an organ in the future, I’ll get one sooner.”

My friend Debbie Dupasquier donated her kidney to her mother a couple of years ago, and my friend David Knowles donated his kidney to his daughter a few years before that. In both cases, the operations were a huge success.

Please go to www.becauseicanproject.com and check to see if you’re a donor. I was pleased to find out that I still am.

Please also sign the petition provided on the site to change registration to the opt-out program. Once this happens, as in Spain, waiting lists will cease to exist in our country.

 

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