Still a critical need for donors on the 20th anniversary of National Organ and Tissue Donation Awareness Week
For those who are waiting for a lifesaving transplant, organ or tissue donation is top of mind. For the rest of us - less so. As part of this year’s National Organ and Tissue Donation Awareness Week (NOTDAW), Canadian Blood Services along with provincial organ donation organizations across the country are asking Canadians to answer the call and register to be a donor.
“Every day in Canada, more than 4,600 people are waiting for news that a donor has been found. But sadly, each year more than 250 Canadians who need a transplant die before receiving one,” says Kimberly Young, Canadian Blood Services’ director of donation and transplantation.
This year marks the 20th anniversary of NOTDAW. Legislation creating the week was brought forward by former Member of Parliament Dan McTeague as a tribute to the family of pediatric organ donor Stuart Herriott, whose gift saved four lives and whose memory continues to inform people of the critical need for more organ and tissue donors in Canada. To help mark this occasion, Canadian Blood Services and organ donation organizations across the country are asking all Canadians to consider organ donation and registering their intent at organtissuedonation.ca. Another important step includes having a conversation with loved ones – those who would act on your behalf during a medical emergency – to ensure wishes are clear.
A 20th anniversary story
Alberta’s Kevin Skogstad is living proof of how much organ donation matters. In his early twenties, he was diagnosed with a life-threatening kidney disease. Skogstad’s kidneys began to fail and for 18 months, his life revolved around dialysis as he got weaker and toxins took over his body.
While all his friends were busy making plans and building careers, Skogstad wasn’t sure he had a future in store. But he was one of the lucky ones, and 18 months later the call he had been waiting for came - a kidney had been found. Later this year, he will mark the 20th anniversary of his kidney transplant. Since then, he has married, had three children he adores, built a career, spent countless hours refereeing hockey and travelled all over the world.
“I’m about to hit 20 years. That’s a big deal and a positive thing for transplant. For those people going through this, it can give them hope,” he says. “It certainly changed my life. I wouldn’t have a life without it.”
Events this week
National Organ and Tissue Donation Awareness Week runs from April 23 to 29. During this time, Canadian Blood Services will promote organ and tissue donation at select blood donor clinics, with the help of volunteers from partners at provincial organ donation organizations, who will be on hand to talk about organ donation.
Green is the official colour of organ and tissue donation, symbolizing the hope organ donors provide to patients in need and their families. As part of the awareness week, organ donation advocates across the country will wear green ribbon pins. Landmarks from coast to coast will also be lit up in green to remind Canadians of all the men and women who have died waiting for transplants, and to express gratitude to organ and tissue donors and their families for giving the greatest gift of all, the gift of life.
For more information and for links to provincial organ donation organizations, visit the Canadian Blood Services website at organtissuedonation.ca
There are powerful stories just like Kevin’s from across the country. Here are just a few, but contact us to learn more.
- Newfoundland and Labrador: Pat shares the story of her family’s decision to donate their son Jeff’s organs after he tragically passed away in 2016.
- Prince Edward Island: Cathy just celebrated her 20th transplant anniversary after receiving a kidney transplant in February of 1997. Her kidney came from a living donor, and was the first friend-to-friend transplant in Atlantic Canada.
- Nova Scotia: Carolyn works in a dialysis unit and sees the need for organ transplants every day. She also understands making the decision to donate a loved-ones organs after her husband died at the age of 41.
- Ontario: Since receiving a lifesaving liver transplant in 1997 due to primary sclerosing cholangitis, Sandra has been an advocate for organ & tissue donation and transplantation.
- Quebec: Marie-Eve received a kidney transplant from an anonymous donor 20 years ago, when she was still a teenager, Today she lives a full life as a mother and an English teacher at primary school.
- Manitoba: 20-years ago Karen was the mom of two young boys, living with kidneys heavily damaged by lupus. Thanks to a lifesaving kidney transplant, she is marking her 50th birthday this year.
- Saskatchewan: Sherry wasn’t sure she would live to see her children grow up. Thanks to another family’s decision to give the gift of life, this summer Sherry and her family will celebrate the 25th anniversary of her heart-lung transplant
- British Columbia: After a 7-year battle, with liver disease, Susan was getting ready to say her goodbyes.Thanks to an organ donor, she received the life-saving transplant she needed—just in time.