Over 30 years ago, in my early twenties, I was diagnosed with an atrial septal defect (ASD) that would require open heart surgery at St. Paul's Hospital in Vancouver. While I waited, unemployed on medical leave, I had time to contemplate what that meant. I worried that I might need a new heart, or that my adult life would be over before it had barely begun.
It was then that I decided I would become an organ donor, especially since I had learned at a blood donation drive a few years earlier that I have the universal donor blood type of O negative.
Back then, the choice to donate organs was part of your driver’s licence options; however, since 1997, the BC Transplant’s Organ Donation Registry has replaced all previous processes, and now you can register through the BC Transplant website or the Canadian Blood Services website.
I’ve shared my decision to donate with my loved ones
Now, over three decades later, with a Gore-Tex patch and a healed heart, I have no regrets that I chose to be an organ and tissue donor upon my death. My spouse and family are all aware of my wishes, and I also have them clearly stated in my will. I have even gone so far as to register to donate my body to science through the UBC Faculty of Medicine Body Program, should it not be viable for organ donation. I believe both to be a special gift to individuals to continue their lives, or to further medical science and the understanding of the human body.
The Logan Boulet Effect
I encourage everyone to learn more about organ and tissue donation, especially on Green Shirt Day on April 7, which honours the legacy of Humboldt hockey player Logan Boulet and the “Logan Boulet Effect,” when the largest number of Canadians registered to become organ donors in Canadian history due to the choices of one inspiring person.
What difference can one person make?
The key message from the Canadian Blood Services during National Organ and Tissue Donation Awareness Month and Tissue Donation Awareness Week (April 24-30) is that one person can make a difference:
- A single organ donor can save up to eight lives.
- Eye and tissue donors can improve the lives of up to 75 patients.
- You are six times more likely to need an organ transplant than to become an organ donor.
- Age doesn’t matter. Canada’s oldest organ donor was over 90 years old.
- It takes two minutes to register your decision to become an organ donor.
- It is crucial that you talk with your family and loved ones about your decision to become a registered organ donor.
This April, I encourage you to take the time to talk to your family and friends about this life-changing decision you can make today.