National Organ and Tissue Donation Awareness Week

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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National Organ and Tissue Donation Awareness Week 2016


Monday, April 18, 2016

Canadians encouraged to register to give life through organ or tissue donation

(OTTAWA) – As part of this year’s National Organ and Tissue Donation Awareness Week, Canadian Blood Services, along with organ donation organizations across Canada, is encouraging Canadians to take three important steps: make the decision to donate organs and tissues, register their intent to donate, and have open and frank conversations with loved ones about organ donation.

Approximately 4,500 Canadians are waiting for a lifesaving organ transplant and many more are waiting for tissue transplants. One organ donor can save up to eight lives, and one tissue donor can enhance the lives of 75 people. The sad reality is that on average, 250 Canadians die each year waiting.

“One-third of all Canadians who need a transplant will never receive one,” says Kimberly Young, Canadian Blood Services’ director of donation and transplantation. “We encourage Canadians to register as organ and tissue donors and have that very important discussion with their families so their wishes are known. Canadians should also consider living organ donation. This is an important choice that over 500 people acted on last year. We can all play such a huge role in turning lives around by making these simple decisions,” she says.

The Woolfsmith family from Calgary are passionate advocates for organ donation, and living proof of the difference donors can make. Several years ago, when three-year-old Mackenzy Woolfsmith passed away due to a severe head injury, her parents donated her organs, and their generous gift saved four lives. The family hopes more Canadians will register their decision to donate and speak to their loved ones about their wishes.

National Organ and Tissue Donation Awareness Week runs from April 18 to 24, and features many opportunities to encourage Canadians to sign up to donate. Global News, Canadian Blood Services, and organ donation and transplantation agencies across the country are hosting a 48-hour TV, online and social media registration drive — called #48in48 — to kick off the week. The goal of this 48-hour blitz is to encourage 48,000 conversations about organ and tissue donation in 48 hours across the country. Canadians are encouraged to register their decision to be an organ and or tissue donor and have conversations with their loved ones about their wishes. LiveOn.ca will help you register and show your support in your province.

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 this week, organ donation advocates across the country will be wearing green ribbon pins. Landmarks from coast to coast are being lit up in the same 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.

From April 18 to 22, volunteers from provincial organ donation organizations will be in many Canadian Blood Services blood donor clinics across the country, providing information about organ and tissue donation and a chance to register their decision.

Links to provincial organizations are available on the Canadian Blood Services website at blood.ca.

By the numbers

  • Canadians are five to six times more likely to need an organ transplant than to become a deceased organ donor.
  • One-third of Canadians who need a transplant will never receive one.
  • 4,500+: Canadians waiting for a transplant.
  • 250: Average number of Canadians who die each year waiting for a transplant.
  • 2,427: Lifesaving organ transplants performed in Canada in 2014.
  • 3,259: Sight-restoring cornea transplants performed in Canada in 2014.
  • 595: Deceased donors who gave the gift of life in Canada in 2014.
  • 555: Canadians who were living donors in 2014.
  • 90+%: Percentage of Canadians who support organ donation — yet only about 50 per cent have made the decision to be a donor.
  • Two minutes: The time it takes to register your decision on organ donation online at LiveOn.ca.
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National Organ and Tissue Donation Awareness Week 2015


Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Canada needs more donors: “48 in 48” registration drive planned

 

Ottawa, Ontario – As part of National Organ and Tissue Donation Awareness Week (April 19-25th, 2015), Canadian Blood Services, along with several organ donation organizations across the country, is taking part in a 48 hour registration drive between April 20-22. Called “#48in48 for organ donation”, the initiative’s goal is to collectively register 48,000 new donors in 48 hours.

 

While the number of donors in many provinces has increased over the past several years, it still does not meet the increasing need. Approximately, one of four patients on the waitlist gets a transplant and an average of 230 Canadians die each year waiting for a lifesaving organ.

 

According to an Ipsos poll, 91 per cent of Canadians support the idea of organ and tissue donation, but only 44 per cent have made the decision to donate. Among those who have decided, only three quarters say they have signed up on the organ and tissue registry or signed a donor card.

 

Dr. Dana Devine, Canadian Blood Services Chief Medical and Scientific Officer, urges Canadians to learn about organ and tissue donation and to register their consent to donate. “As the Canadian population ages in the next two decades, transplant demand is projected to increase by more than 150 per cent,” says Dr. Devine. ‘”We want to encourage all those people who say they support donation and transplantation to register with their province and discuss their wishes with their family.”

 

One organ donor can improve or save the life of up to 8 patients. A single tissue donor can help improve or enhance the lives of as many as 75 patients. Canadians can sign up to become organ and tissue donors in their province or territory of residence. Medical staff will discuss with a person's family before a donation takes place; so it is critical that loved ones are aware of a person’s wishes.

 

“Anyone can be a potential donor,” says Dr. Devine. “We all have a role to play in increasing the availability of organs for transplant.”

 

People can register to donate in their province or territory by visiting: www.organsandtissues.ca/donate.

 

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Canadian Blood Services Celebrates National Organ and Tissue Donation Awareness Week


Monday, April 23, 2012

We honour and commemorate the heroes who helped save or improve the lives of so many Canadians

April 23, 2012 (Toronto, ON) - Sue Thompson has no words to express the depth of her gratitude to two heart donors and their families. Her son Robbie is alive today thanks to those donors.

Image
Robbie Thompson and Mom

Robbie Thompson and his mom, Sue Thompson celebrating his 14th birthday.

This week, Canadian Blood Services celebrates National Organ and Tissue Donation Awareness Week. From Apr. 23-28, we honour and commemorate organ and tissue donors and their families who helped save or improve the lives of many more Canadians.

“Organ and tissue transplantation saves lives, gives hope to patients with end stage organ failure and provides others with renewed lives,” says Kim Young, Executive Director, Organs and Tissues. “By making your decision and registering or documenting your wishes to be and organ and/or tissue donor your family will never be required to make this decision on your behalf.”

In partnership with several organ and tissue donation and transplantation organizations and patient/advocacy groups across the country, Canadian Blood Services is highlighting this issue through the stories of a 2-time heart recipient and a tissue donor.

There are now about 4,300 Canadians waiting for a life-saving organ and more than 2,000 waiting for cornea transplants. These numbers don’t reflect those who never even make it to a waiting list. One organ donor can help save the lives of up to eight people. A single tissue donor can help improve or enhance the lives of as many as 100 patients.

Canadian Blood Services is encouraging Canadians to talk to their family and loved ones about their wishes and sign up or register as an organ and tissue donor. Visit organsandtissues.ca for more information about living donation or to learn how to register your consent in your province. See and hear the stories of Robbie and Sue Thompson and Denice Klavano or visit Canadian Blood Services’ YouTube channel 18882DONATE.

Quotes:

Denice Klavano, mother of tissue donor “I think that the one gift out of this terrible tragedy is to know that in a way, his eyes still see the world, although through someone else’s lens.”

Sue Thompson, mother of heart recipient Robbie “When Robbie was on the transplant ward after his second transplant, and he was walking around, he’d meet up with other kids, and we realized there were several families, several children there that had received organs the same night that Robbie had. There was this incredible feeling that this one donor had saved all these children’s lives.”

Dr. Sam Shemie, pediatric intensive care physician in Montreal and medical director of donation at Canadian Blood Services

“Transplantation is fantastic. It is heroic, it is amazing, it is wonderful… People use the word miracle, they mean different things. Whether it’s a religious event, a spiritual event or it’s just the coinciding of lots of effort from a lot of people.”

- 30 -

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