By Graeme McNaughton/The Oshawa Express
It’s a list with nearly 1,600 names on it. And the names on that list can be removed for reasons both good and bad. However, the latter usually means you died waiting to get off the list.
It’s the list of people awaiting organ donation in Ontario.
Durham Region Organ Donor Awareness – working with the provincial Trillium Gift of Life Network – is looking to make that list shorter for the best of reasons: people getting off the list because they found a match.
“The thing is to raise awareness within the region about organ and tissue donor awareness, and what people can do if they sign consent to give their organs after they die to those who are suffering from life-ending or life-threatening diseases like kidney disease, liver disease, heart disease. Certainly, those diseases can be treated by transplant,” says Hilda Finnigan, a volunteer with the group.
Finnigan has a background in nursing, meaning she has seen the grim side of people waiting.
“I’ve seen people who are dying because their liver’s failing or their heart’s failing or their kidneys are failing,” she says. “Not all diseases of those organs can be treated with transplants, but certainly there are many that can.”
However, the matter hit home when, about 30 years ago, her brother-in-law contracted cardiomyopathy, a disease that leads to the deterioration of the heart, meaning it loses the ability to effectively pump blood through the body.
He needed a transplant, and he found one. He would go on to live for nearly 20 more years.
“He got to see his children grow up, he went back to work, he was able to participate as a family member again.”
As of April 9, 68 people in Ontario were waiting for a heart.
A further 1,138 in need of a kidney and 207 in need of a liver, as well as others in need of a lung, pancreas or bowel join those 68.
It is because of this list that Finnigan says it is so important to register as an organ donor.
“It increases the quality of life and saves lives,” she says. “One person who signs their consent can help up to eight people. That’s a lot of people from one consent.”
To help raise awareness, there will be an information booth on organ donation at the Oshawa Centre on April 17 and 18, which will show people how to register.
That process is a simple one, although it goes further than what many people think – it’s more than just signing the card that comes with your drivers licence.
“The very best thing to do is to go on the computer and go to the Trillium Gift of Life website and go to beadonor.ca. There, you can sign up and register your consent,” Finnigan says. “That is stored and can be accessed by health care facilities where they can look up your consent so nobody has to look for that card.”
Finnigan adds that it is important to talk to your family and friends about your wishes, as they are the ones who have the final say.