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Lakeridge leads among tissue donors

Lakeridge Health had to highest number of tissue donations in the province in 2016.

By Dave Flaherty/The Oshawa Express

With the highest number of tissue donations and one of the highest rates of organ donation in the province, Lakeridge Health has been recognized for its excellence in the field.

The regional health care network, which serves Durham Region with hospitals in Oshawa, Whitby, Bowmanville, Ajax and Port Perry, was recently awarded a Trillium Gift of Life Network Hospital Achievement Award and Provincial Conversion Rate Award.

Trillium Gift of Life Network (TGLN) is a not-for-profit organization under the arm of the provincial government, which promotes, coordinates and supports organ and tissue donation through Ontario.

Lakeridge received the achievement award for being one of the leading hospitals across the province for conversion rate, which is the percentage of potential donors who are able to provide organs to those awaiting transplants.

For the fiscal year of 2016-17, Lakeridge Health had a conversion rate of 62 per cent, which met the TGLN goal of 58 per cent. The average rate across Ontario was 63 per cent.

Also for the third straight year, Lakeridge led the province in tissue donations with 148 tissue donors, after earning the top spot in 2015-2016 with 149 donors and 2014-2015 with 143 donors.

Leslie Motz, vice-president of clinical services and chief nursing executive at Lakeridge says public awareness is imperative to a successful donor program.

“It’s absolutely key to start the conversation with loved ones,” Motz states. “The awareness comes from understanding these conversations should be happening long before the end of life cycle.”

While the awards are greatly appreciated at Lakeridge, Motz says, “I think what is more of an honour is day-to-day we are able to make sure our patients’ final wishes are adhered to.”

As of Oct. 30, there are currently 1,516 people waiting for organ transplants in Ontario, 844 of whom are between the ages of 51 and 70.

Jennifer Long, communications advisor for TGLN, says while waitlist numbers have stabilized over the past few years, there are many other patients who are ready for an organ transplant who haven’t officially been placed on the list.

The number of organ donations has increased from 613 in 2014 to 715 in 2016, while the number of transplants rose from 1,093 to 1,303 in the same time period.

At the end of 2016, of Ontario’s 12,068,743 health card holders, there were 3,713,164 registered organ donors, a 31 per cent rate, up from 26 per cent in 2014.

Although these numbers may be encouraging, every three days in Ontario, a person will die waiting for a transplant.
Even if someone is registered as an organ donor, their family makes the final decision as to whether a donation will be made. In fact, TGLN reported in 2015, that 21 per cent of families ultimately decided against the registered donor’s wishes after their death.

However, Long says with more trained organ donation coordinators, this challenge has become somewhat mitigated over the past few years.

Durham Region resident Gerald Scheenaard received a life-saving heart transplant in 2015.

“Before I received my new heart, I couldn’t walk up a flight of stairs without having to stop and rest and I’d always wonder if I’d live another day,” he says. “This life-saving gift has allowed me to experience the birth of my three grandchildren and enjoy the things in life that many others take for granted.”

Scheenaard encourages others to donate, and perhaps save a life, just like his was.

“For those who have reservations about becoming a donor, I would ask that if you were in dire need and could accept the first transplant, would you refuse it? If your answer is no, then why would you not become a donor?” he asked.

For more information on organ and tissue donation, visit giftoflife.on.ca. or to become a registered donor, visit beadonor.ca