Consider giving the gift of life

Province encourages Red Deerians to sign on for organ donation

It’s not exactly a topic many people care to bring up, but that does nothing to diminish its importance.

There seems to be some reluctance on the part of many to sign up as organ donors, and that’s something the province is trying to change via an ongoing awareness-building campaign.

Organ donation is when an organ (heart, lung, kidney for example) is removed from one person and transplanted into another person. Tissue donation is when tissues (for example – skin, corneas or bone) are removed from one person and transplanted into another.

Perhaps one of the reasons the whole topic doesn’t garner the attention it deserves is because folks don’t know how incredibly beneficial signing on as an organ donor can be. It can mean literally the difference between life or death for someone who has maybe been waiting months or even years for news of a donor.

Currently, there are more than 700 Albertans on transplant waitlists. There are also more than 4,500 Canadians waiting for a transplant that will save their lives. And even more people are waiting for tissue transplants that will make the quality of their lives better.

The good news is that Alberta’s rate of deceased donors is increasing, from 9.9 deceased donors per million in 2012, to 13.6 in 2014. About 2,500 Albertans register every week to become organ and tissue donors. And just one organ and tissue donor can save up to eight lives and make life better for up to 75 other people.

In the two years since the government launched the Alberta Organ and Tissue Donation Registry and enlisted a network of registries to help, more than 250,000 Albertans have signed up to become donors.

Albertans can go to MyHealth.Alberta.ca and find information about organ, tissue and body donation and a link to the registry. You must have your Alberta Personal Health Care Number to enter the registry, and the online registry will guide you through the process.

First off, it’s a topic worth bringing up with your loved ones. Feelings about organ donation run the gamut from those who are perfectly willing to do so to those who are pretty much against the concept from the get-go.

That’s really why, ultimately, communication is so very important. As the web site points out, if you want to be an organ and/or tissue donor – talk about your wishes with your family and tell them exactly what you want to happen when you die.

The province also requests that residents call a Living Donor Program in your area if you want to be a living donor (kidney or part of the lung or liver, or tissue such as bone marrow or stem cells). An example of this is when a brother gives one of his two kidneys to his sister or a mother gives part of her liver to her child.

Clearly, it’s an amazing gift.

And to that end, perhaps no one could say it better than 14-year-old Cooper Pirtle.

“It’s my mission to raise awareness on organ donation because, as one of 23 grandchildren to a double-lung transplant recipient, I can say on behalf of my family, it means everything to us,” said Cooper. “In my efforts, I will continue to inform people on how easy it is to register as a donor, to make posters and hand out pamphlets, and talk to your family and to push for my idea to have green ribbon coffee cups at Tim Hortons during Organ Donation Awareness month in April.”

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