April 20 – 26, 2014 is National Organ and Tissue Donor Awareness week in Canada. Here are some quick facts about organ and tissue donations: first, over 1600 Canadians will be added to the Organ Wait List this year alone. Second, one organ donor can save up to eight lives. Third, over 81% of Canadians respond to polls by saying that they would donate their organs but less than 20% of them have made arrangements to do that. And finally, it only takes two minutes to register yourself as a donor…simply go to www.beadonor.ca
There are differences between organ donations and tissue donations. To be an organ donor, you must die in a hospital with your body supported by a ventilator. With a ventilator, oxygen is circulated in the blood so that organs can be used for transplant. Organs that can be donated include the heart, liver, kidneys, pancreas, lungs and small bowel. Tissues however can be donated within certain time limits if you die at home or in the community because blood circulation is not required. Tissues that can be donated include corneas from the eyes, heart valves, bone and skin. Bone marrow is retrieved only from living donors. If you want to donate your organs and tissues after death, you can consider yourself a potential donor regardless of your age or medical history. There are no absolute guidelines when it comes to age, and your medical condition at the time of your death is more important than your past history.
People come to us all the time for guidance in prearranging their funerals, because like a will or insurance, they’re concerned about what they’re leaving behind and they want to do the right thing. Nothing could be more thoughtful than organ and tissue donation and prearranging is the perfect opportunity to confirm that decision. After all, of all things you leave behind, how much would matter more than life itself?