Niagara Health is grateful to the 10 organ donors from the region who saved the lives of 32 people last year.
In the process, the lives of countless others, including recipients’ families, friends, employers and communities, were changed for the better, too, says Dr. Hari Vasan, Niagara Health’s Hospital Donation Physician and Medical Director of the Critical Response Team.
Dr. Vasan knows this not only from the work he does at Niagara Health, but from his own experience with his father, Srini, who received a life-changing kidney transplant.
“My father was on dialysis several days a week for several hours at a time, which took away from his ability to work and pay taxes, his ability to participate in his community and support his family,” Dr. Vasan says. “Not only did a transplant change his own quality of life, it changed the quality of life for those around him and his contribution to society.”
Dr. Vasan, Niagara Health and Trillium Gift of Life Network encourage everyone over the age of 16 to discuss their wishes with their families, then register to become an organ and tissue donor during BeADonor month this April. The entire process takes about two minutes per person by visiting BeADonor.ca.
“It’s an easy way to sign up and whole families can sign up in 10 minutes after having these conversations,” Dr. Vasan says. “It’s a tragedy to potentially not have your wishes honoured and to not have someone benefit from what you could have contributed, as a result.”
There are currently more than 1,500 people in Ontario waiting for a life-saving organ transplant, according to Trillium Gift of Life Network, which plans, promotes, co-ordinates and supports organ and tissue donation and transplantation in the province. However, every three days, someone will die because they didn’t get their transplant in time.
Niagara Health works together with Trillium Gift of Life Network to identify potential donors who can save and change lives. One donor can save up to eight lives through organ donation. Another 75 lives can be enhanced through the gift of tissue: eyes can restore sight; skin can help burn patients; bones can be used for joint replacements; heart valves can help patients with congenital heart disease; and tendons and ligaments can help recipients walk and run.
Everyone is a potential organ and tissue donor, regardless of age or medical condition. And yet, while 90 per cent of Ontarians are in favour of organ donation, only 35 per cent register their consent to donate. That underscores the importance of campaigns like BeADonor Month, Dr. Vasan explains.
“Often the only good thing that comes of a tragedy when someone loses a life – the only good thing that comes of it – is they saved someone else’s life with an organ donation,” Vasan says. “The solace and satisfaction that provides to a donor’s family years later is significant, knowing that in spite of a tragedy, some good came of it and someone’s life is better as a result.”
Visit BeADonor.ca to learn more and register as an organ donor.