Column: Organ donation: A gift of life

By: Erna deBurger-Fex – Reflections

 | Apr 17, 2014 - 10:49 AM |

Have you given any thought to donating your organs or your tissues after your death?

It’s certainly not a pleasant subject to think about, but that time will come for all of us. It’s inescapable.

I realize there are some who still do not understand the importance of making this decision. If you do, it is imperative to tell family and your executor in order for your wishes to be carried out quickly after your death. Doing that relieves the family of that burden as the decision has been made.

A family member was the recipient of a donated liver 12 years ago. It is certain he would have died if the liver donation had not been available for him. He would never have known the joy of having and interacting with his four grandsons. He feels blessed.

That new organ has allowed him to live a normal life, go fishing, have dinners with his buddies and successfully host family reunions with his spouse.

He is an enthusiastic Sudbury Wolves fan and never misses a game.

Another family member is the youngest of the Fex family. He was extremely fortunate to receive two kidneys 10 years apart. He fell in love, married and enjoyed his step daughters as well as his granddaughters. Without the generosity of the organ donors and their families, both of these men would have died years ago.

Indicating you want to donate your organs or tissues after death is not a difficult process. Of the greatest importance is to make sure your family and executor knows!

In 1962, organ transplantation was still an experimental procedure and results were dismal. It triggered the recipient’s immune system to attack the new organ, which the body saw as an invader. Today, a donor recipient must use anti-rejection medication daily to keep well.

Our family members are glad to do so as they realize it’s the only way to keep the organs functioning. It is the reason why they are able, in essence, to live a normal life.

Transplantation research and the development of new technologies have caused the monumental success rate we have today.

“Success rates for long-term survival are 80 to 90 per cent,” reports Dr. Patrick Luke, co-director of the Multi-organ Transplant Program at the London Health Sciences Centre.

The major problem today is that there are long waiting lists for patients needing a transplant. The need for organs far exceeds the supply.

Over 1,600 Canadians are added to organ wait lists yearly, but one donor can benefit more than 75 people and save up to eight lives, the Canadian Transplant Society reports.

It really is the gift of life.

Increasing organ donor awareness is critical. Canadians must register to be an organ donor, either online or when you renew your driver’s licence or health card. It’s not at all complicated.

The Canadian Transplant Society also found in a recent poll that more than 81 per cent of Canadians would donate their organs and tissues when asked, but fewer than 20 percent have made arrangements.

I wonder why that is? Why are too may healthy organs buried or cremated? 

It’s essential that awareness of organ donation be widespread through all media and in every other way possible.

Erna de Burger-Fex is a writer and retired teacher.

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