By choosing to donate your organs after death, you can save up to eight lives, and by being a tissue donor, up to 75 individuals can benefit. By providing someone with an organ to replace one that is not functioning properly, a donor can save lives.
Tissue donation is the process where tissues such as bone tissue, skin, blood or bone marrow are removed from one individual and transplanted to another. A healthy body can easily replace most tissues that are donated such as blood and bone marrow and can both be donated more than once as they regenerate.
Along with choosing to donate your organs after you pass, you are also provided with the opportunity to become a “live donor.” Most living donations take place between family members or close friends. Becoming a live donor means you’re willing to donate an organ that your body is able to function without, or a piece of one, to someone in need.
Typically, we hear about a kidney or part of someone’s liver being given by a live donor, but there are several others organs available for live donation, such as lung lobes, intestines, pancreases, hearts (a very complicated and rare process) and uteruses. Jerome Black, a teacher with the District School Board of Niagara made the decision to become a living organ donor after his cousin was in need of a kidney in order to survive.
“My cousin had renal failure due to kidney disease. She had been on home dialysis for a few years and things were not looking anything close to imminent for a transplant. Her immediate family had been ruled out for various medical reasons. I decided to find out whether I could be a viable donor and I was. It really was that simple of a decision for me. Once I realized that I could give, it was a non-issue to follow through,” said Black. “It may sound simplistic, but if you can save someone’s life or drastically improve their quality of life by donating, then it’s something to consider. I think many are aware of being an organ donor once their lives are over, and those are very important, too, but I think people need to be more aware of options for live donation. Hearing stories about the impact of donation, both living-donor and end-of-life donation can help inspire others to give.”
While some, like Black, convey their stance on organ donation through the act itself, others seek to raise awareness through unique marketing techniques.
Chiquinho Scarpa, a Brazilian billionaire, announced to the town he resides in that he was going to bury his $500,000 Bentley Flying Spur car and invited the media to come and watch as it was lowered into the ground. This scene caused an uproar from Brazilian natives but just before it was about to be lowered he halted the escapade.
Scarpa announced to the media before him that he was not going to bury his car and that everyone thought that he was absurd when he said he was going to do it. Scarpa then proceeded to compare burying his beloved car to that of burying bodies with your organs.
Since then, this video has received the top prize at the Golden Lions awards (advertising equivalent of the Oscars) and has been spread over Facebook and other forms of social media as a means to create awareness for organ donations. This video highlights the importance of being buried with your organs. What good was Scarpa’s car going to do him when he’s dead? Just as much good as being buried with your organs will do, according to the billionaire.
Canadian Blood Services is an organization that is actively involved in creating awareness and providing knowledge on becoming an organ and tissue donor. They aim to provide individuals with the means to become an organ donor and provide all the required information.
“Canadian Blood Services urges all Canadians to take action and talk to their families about organ donation. It’s very important to ensure your organ donation wishes are understood by your family and to register your intent to become an organ donor by signing up to your provincial organ and tissue donation registry,” said Jenny Ryan, a communications specialist with Canadian Blood Services.
Many people interested in becoming organ donors seem to only think about it rather than do it. This can be for many reasons, including thinking the process is too complicated, or that the process will take too long without researching it beforehand. All that is needed is education and knowledge that this process is not as complex as many think, it is rather simple to become a donor.
The process of becoming a donor takes approximately three minutes and can be done without even having to leave the comfort of your home. To become a donor go to organtissuedonation.ca, select your province on the main screen and hit go. Registration occurs on Service Ontario’s website and asks you to enter your personal information including your health card type and information and your date of birth.
For those receiving their driver’s licenses for the first time, the process becomes even easier. When the license arrives, there is a slip of paper along with it asking you to simply check a box if you wish to be an organ donor, put it in the envelope that comes with it and put it in the mail, no postage required.
Sarah Marshall was diagnosed with megacystis microcolon intestinal hypo-peristalsis syndrome and at the age of five months and 24 days old she received a stomach, pancreas, liver and bowel transplant. Marshall was the first pediatric multi-organ transplant in Canada and for that, she is in the Guinness Book of World Records. Marshall and her family have been significantly impacted by the organ donation of an unknown donor and for that, she will be forever grateful.
“Organ donation for me, made the difference between life and death. Without my donor family I would never have been able to live my life. I was so unwell that, fortunately, I was moved to the top of the transplant list, after my surgeon told my mom that I had about a week to live,” said Marshall. “I don’t remember life before my transplant, as I was five months and 24 days old but I do help to educate and promote organ donation as I can. Since my transplant, I have been able to do many things, I had graduated grade eight and high school and recently have graduated from Loyalist College in Business Administration in 2018 and have recently started a post-graduate program in Public Relations and Event Management. My goal, once I finish is to work in the field of fundraising, hopefully for a children’s hospital or Children’s Miracle Network, or even Trillium Gift of Life.”
With Marshall’s life being so delicate at such a young age, her family has been significantly impacted by the anonymous organ donation she has received. This donation has allowed Marshall to live life to the fullest and her family is extremely grateful the donation and for her life.
“Organ donation vastly changed our lives and how we look at life. Thanks to a grieving family’s generosity we have been able, for the past 21 years, watch our very critically ill six-month-old granddaughter grow into a beautiful young woman who is now a great advocate for organ donation,” said Gerry and Lea Wildey, Marshall’s grandparents. “This voyage even with all the bumps in the road along the way has enabled us to see her graduate from college and has given us a totally different perspective to life and what it means. Without this precious gift from her donor family none of this would have been possible and we will be eternally grateful.”
Approximately 4,500 Canadians are in need of a life-saving organ transplant and many more are in need of a tissue transplant. By registering to be an organ and tissue donor you could be registering to save a person’s life. Why not be the reason for allowing an individual to spend more time with their loved ones, to celebrate another birthday or Christmas, why not save a life?
Six years ago, on October 22, 2012, Isaac Riehl passed away at the age of 14. Riehl was struck by a car while longboarding and suffered a traumatic brain injury. Riehl was transported to a hospital where he later died. Prior to passing, he had made the decision to donate his organs, in hopes of helping someone live a life that was taken away from him at such a young age. Ted Riehl, Isaac’s father, has been significantly impacted by the decision to donate Isaac’s organs but is grateful for the way in which Isaac saved a life.
“Once we learned the extent of the brain damage that Isaac had suffered, we wanted to donate as much of him as possible so that others could live. If we couldn’t have Isaac, we wanted to have him to live on in others and give them life. It was the absolute hardest thing that I have ever experienced, watching my son take his last breath and we didn’t have much time to say goodbye at that point because time was of the essence to harvest his organs,” said Riehl. “We don’t know who received Isaac’s organs. We were told generally, but nothing more than reading the letters we received. Reading the letters was very emotional, knowing the massive health changes in the recipients as the result of the donation. I think it’s important to be an organ donor because others can live on when my loved one cannot. When our loved ones pass away, we suffer unimaginable grief and loss. Our decision to donate prevents others from experiencing that same loss. Our loved one cannot live on, but through organ donation, others can.”
Organ donation can have a significant impact on someone’s life. By choosing to donate your organs you are making the decision to save someone’s life and giving them the opportunity of living a life that they wouldn’t be able to experience without you.
“There is comfort knowing that people are enjoying their lives as the result of our loss. It’s a selfless act to donate you or your child’s organs, but I am thankful knowing that a little part of Isaac lives on in others. My son gave life to others. That is a very powerful thought and I consider it an honor to know that Isaac did that. It makes me extremely proud, not in myself, but of Isaac,” said Riehl.
Visit blood.ca/en/organs-tissues for more information on becoming an organ donor and the steps you can take to take a person’s life.