Bluewater Health has joined Trillium Gift of Life Network (TGLN) in working to save lives through organ and tissue donation.
As a partner in Ontario’s Routine Notification program since January 2012, the Emergency Department and Critical Care Units of Bluewater Health are required to report every impending patient death and every unexpected death to TGLN within an hour of the death.
Specially trained staff can then identify potential donors and approach families when there is the opportunity to help others through the gift of organ and tissue donation.
Since April 2011, Bluewater Health has referred 25 potential donors to TGLN. There have been two donors resulting in six lives saved, and renewed vision has been made possible for eight people through the gift of corneas. These numbers will increase with the start of Routine Notification, helping even more people.
“With Trillium Gift of Life Network’s education resources for staff, hospital development coordinators offering advice and expertise and 24/7 access to a donation physician specialist for consultation, organ and tissue donation has become a priority in our facility,” says Sue Roger, Business Director, Medicine/Stroke/Palliative/ER/Critical Care Unit, Bluewater Health. “In all of 2011, we had six donations of corneas, but since beginning Routine Notification we had seven in just two months.”
There are currently more than 1,500 people waiting for a life-saving organ transplant in Ontario. Every three days one of these people will die waiting because the call saying that a transplant match is available didn’t come in time.
There are two ways to address this issue: register more of the public as potential organ and tissue donors and be sure that every prospective donor is identified. In almost all cases, families honour and respect their loved ones' donation decision if they are given evidence that it's what the donor wanted. If they are unsure or unaware of their loved one’s wishes, consent is given only 50% of the time.
The reality is that the opportunity for organ donation is rare. While everyone has the potential to be an organ and/or tissue donor, during their lifetime people are five times more likely to need an organ transplant than have the opportunity to donate one.
On average, only 2-3% of hospital deaths occur in circumstances that will permit a person to become an organ donor, which means it is crucial that hospital staff be familiar with the criteria a person must meet to be an organ donor and know when the call to Trillium Gift of Life Network must be made.
Only patients who are in ventilated units (critical care areas and emergency departments) have the potential to be an organ donor, though patients from all other hospital units have the potential to be tissue donors.
Together with TGLN and Sarnia Organ Donor’s Awareness Group (SODA), the Sarnia hospital hosted an information session for the community on April 24 as part of National Organ & Tissue Awareness Week (April 22-28), providing access to information about organ & tissue donation and donor registration, as well as computers for online registration at www.BeADonor.ca.
“One organ and tissue donor can save up to eight lives and transform as many as 75 others,” explains Janice Beitel, Director of Hospital Programs, Professional Practice and Education at TGLN. “Just one more donor can mean everything for the family of someone on the waiting list.”
The family of 18-year-old Sarnia resident Tara Bourque knows this only too well. Bourque received a double-lung transplant on February 1, 2012.
“We were so relieved when the call came,” say parents Tom and Nancy Bourque. “Right after the operation, she felt better than she had in years, and was able to breathe as easily as any one of us. She is now breathing unassisted and we are amazed at her strength and energy level since the transplant. She has rebounded better and more quickly than expected and should be able to come home after three months instead of the expected six months.”
Anyone wanting to be sure that their donation decision is registered should either visit BeADonor.ca or register in person at a ServiceOntario centre. More information on organ and tissue donation is available at www.giftoflife.on.ca.
Photo: Paula Schmidt, Organ & Tissue Donation Coordinator, Trillium Gift of Life Network, helps Tara Bourque, organ donation recipient, check on her organ donation status on www.beadonor.ca