April 19 – 25, 2015 is National Organ and Tissue Donor Awareness week in Canada. 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.
According to the Canadian Association of Transplantation website, more than 4000 Canadians are waiting for an organ transplant to save their lives. Last year only many transplants were performed but also many Canadians died while waiting for an organ transplant. Three-quarters of the patients on the waiting list are waiting for a kidney transplant. 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, out of all things you leave behind, how much of it matters as much as life itself? When my sister Bev died, her organs were donated and that has always made me happy to know that she was able to help someone out…it’s kind of like a part of her is still with us.
Until next week