Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Be a Donor

This week is National Organ and Tissue Donation Awareness week. It is the the States too - dare we say it is, then, international?

Why is this important? Simple. Thousands of people in North America die every year because they don't get organ transplants in time to save them. Hearts. Lungs. Livers. Pancreas. Kidneys. Unfortunately, unless you know someone personally who is waiting, most people don't give to much thought to organ donation, let alone talk about it.

I know people don't like talking about it sometimes. It is one of those topics, like money, politics and religion that people feel is a bit taboo or off-putting. Nobody wants to talk about death or think about "what ifs" that come with being in a horrible accident. Some people are afraid of it - they think if they are ever seriously injured, they will be allowed to die just so their organs can be harvested (so not true!). Or in the case of living donation, some people think they are at great risk if they donate, a risk not worth taking for another person - even a loved one (not true!).

Despite our fears and apprehensions, I think we love hearing the "good news" stories. Millions (yes millions) of Canadians collectively cheered earlier this month when Helene Campbell, Justin-Bieber/Ellen-loving-social-media-organ-donation-promoter-extraodinaire, received her new lungs. Last Christmas, the Ottawa Citizen ran a beautiful series of stories called "The Gift of Life" which were read and shared by many. Despite the fact that often organ donation comes as a result of a heartbreaking loss for one family, we admire and revel in their choice to make the best of a tragic outcome and give life to others so desperate for a chance. When we hear these stories, we get it -  we understand the need. So why then, do so many people not sign their donor cards? And why do even fewer talk to their families about their wishes (a critical component to organ donation as your family are ultimately the people who will give or refuse consent).

Please talk to your family and then take the steps to "register" to be a donor. For a list of province by province information on how to do that, click here.

Through being an organ and tissue donor, in death you could change the lives of up to 80 people. That has to be worth the five minutes it will take to register and tell your family.