Organs and Tissues

Support for organ donation surges during April awareness month

Throughout April and National Organ and Tissue Donation Awareness Week, Canadians responded in the tens of thousands by registering their organ donation decisions, and talking with friends, family and loved ones to ensure their wishes are known.  


(OTTAWA) – More than 100,000 Canadians registered their intent to donate in support of organ and tissue donation during the month of April – a record month and year for registrations. Touched by the Humboldt Broncos tragedy and Logan Boulet’s life-saving gift, Canadians were reminded of the importance of registering and were inspired to take action.    

Organ donation after death accounts for the majority of organ transplants in Canada as one donor can provide the life-saving gift for as many as eight people, and provide tissue for up to 75 patients in need. Deceased donors have suffered a sudden and catastrophic brain injury and despite all medical efforts, die in a way that allows them to provide the gift of life to others. Despite this tragedy, they or their families agree to donate organs to prevent the death of a fellow Canadian. 

Laurie Blackstock of Ottawa knows first-hand the impact of such a decision. In 2017 her husband Stephen Belliveau became a donor after non-stop seizures led to neurological death. In the years prior, Laurie and Stephen had discussed organ donation and had registered their decision.

“Organ and tissue donation doesn’t just help the recipients and their families, it also can be an incredible gift to bereaved families when presented gently and ethically, at the right time, when there is little or no hope of their loved one’s survival,” says Laurie. “Knowing that five people’s lives improved dramatically with Stephen’s lungs, kidneys and corneas didn’t change the depth and intensity of our grief over the past year, but it did give us moments of relief. Stephen lives on through them.”

Talking to family members and registering to be an organ and tissue donor is so important. When families have a clear understanding of their loved one’s organ donation wishes it helps them to make the best possible decision in the face of tragedy. 

Green is the official colour of organ and tissue donation, symbolizing the hope organ donors provide to patients in need. Throughout April, Canadians wore green ribbon pins to honour the donors and donor families who gave the gift of life and to acknowledge the thousands of patients in need of a transplant as well as those who have died waiting. Members of the National Hockey League and media continue to wear the ribbons during the Stanley Cup Playoffs as a tribute to the Humboldt Broncos. 

Approximately 4,500 Canadians are waiting for a lifesaving organ transplant and many more are waiting for tissue. Sadly, on average, 250 Canadians die each year waiting for a transplant.

Canadians have a valuable role to play in continuing to support this critical work.  We urge all Canadians to take action and talk to their families about organ donation, discuss their wishes and register their intent to become a donor by signing up to their provincial organ and tissue donation registry, where available. 

Register your decision to donate at organtissuedonation.ca or donnezorganestissus.ca.

Backgrounder 

The national registration number is based upon provincial registration figures provided by Canada’s has 10 provincial/territorial organ donation organizations/programs (linked below), who are tasked with allocating, facilitating and promoting organ and tissue donation and transplantation within their specified jurisdictions.

Canadian Blood Services works with these programs as well as the wider organ donation and transplantation community in Canada to increase donation and transplantation rates, provide patients with the best possible chances to receive transplants with optimal outcomes, and give families the opportunity to facilitate their loved one’s wishes to become an organ donor.

In addition, Canadian Blood Services’ organ and tissue donation and transplantation program facilitates a national working group made up of members from the provincial organizations below, and is focused on national public education and awareness for organ and tissue donation.

The national working group includes representation from:
Organ Procurement & Exchange of Newfoundland & Labrador New Brunswick Horizon Health Network Saskatchewan Transplant Program
Provincial Organ & Tissue Donation & Transplantation Program, Health PEI Transplant Quebec Alberta Organ and Tissue Donation Agency, Alberta Health Services
Legacy of Life Nova Scotia Organ Donation Program Trillium Gift of Life Network BC Transplant
  Transplant Manitoba Gift of Life Canadian Blood Services 
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April 22-28 is National Organ and Tissue Donation Awareness Week

This week we remind Canadians to talk with their friends, family and loved ones to ensure their organ donation wishes and decisions are understood.  

(OTTAWA) – On April 25th, National Green Light Day will see landmarks across the country lit green to commemorate National Organ and Tissue Donation Awareness Week (April 22-28). From coast to coast these landmarks will remind Canadians of those who have died waiting for transplants, and express gratitude to organ and tissue donors and their families for giving the greatest gift of all. 

“The greatest gift of all was given to me when I received my heart,” says Crystal Prowse of Newfoundland and Labrador, who this year celebrates 30 years of life since receiving her transplant at University Hospital in London, Ontario, when she was just 11 years old. “This gift has given me the opportunity to get an education, pursue a career, get married, and become an aunt.” Crystal's goal this year, in honour of her 30 years of memories thanks to transplant, is to raise awareness about the need for organ donation. 

“There are so many patients in critical need of transplant,” says Crystal. “But these are lives that can still be saved. I recognize that conversations about organ donation can be uncomfortable but these are conversations that need to be had."

Approximately 4,500 Canadians are waiting for a lifesaving organ transplant and many more are waiting for tissue. Sadly, on average, 250 Canadians die each year waiting for a transplant. According to public opinion polls, almost 90 per cent of Canadians support organ and tissue donation but only 20 per cent have registered their decision. 

This week, Canadians are reminded to wear a green ribbon pin to honour the donors and donor families who gave the gift of life and to acknowledge the thousands of patients in need of a transplant as well as those who have died waiting. All Canadians are encouraged to register their intent to donate and are reminded to have the important conversation with loved ones about their organ donation wishes. With clear understanding of our donation wishes, our families can make the right decision in the face of tragedy. 

Register your decision to donate at organtissuedonation.ca or donnezorganestissus.ca

For more information:

Read more about Crystal’s 30 years of memories thanks to organ donation
Backgrounder – National Organ and Tissue Donation Awareness Week
FAQs – National Organ and Tissue Donation Awareness Week 

About NOTDAW  

On Feb. 4, 1997, a National Organ Donor Awareness Week was enacted through Bill C-202. This bill was brought forward by former Member of Parliament, the honourable Dan McTeague. The third week of April was chosen to mark the occasion and to commemorate the death of Stuart Herriott, a toddler killed in a motor vehicle incident in McTeague’s riding of Pickering-Scarborough East. Parents of two-and-a-half-year-old Stuart donated his organs and in turn, helped to save and improve the lives of four others. The intent of the Bill was to encourage education and awareness about donation and allow Parliament to take a leadership role in addressing the scarcity of organs and thinking about those who die every year waiting for a transplant. 

Today, a national working group focused on public education and awareness that includes members of each of the provincial organ donation organizations, and is facilitated by Canadian Blood Services’ organ and tissue donation and transplantation program, works collaboratively on events and initiatives to celebrate NOTDAW and to raise awareness for organ and tissue donation. 

The Public Education and Awareness Working Group includes representation from:
The Organ Procurement & Exchange of Newfoundland & Labrador New Brunswick Horizon Health Network Saskatchewan Transplant Program
Provincial Organ & Tissue Donation & Transplantation Program, Health PEI Transplant Quebec Alberta Organ and Tissue Donation Agency, Alberta Health Services
Legacy of Life Nova Scotia Organ Donation Program Trillium Gift of Life Network BC Transplant
  Transplant Manitoba Gift of Life Canadian Blood Services 
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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

The stories:

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.

 

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