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Consider saving someone's life this Holiday Season

Web posted on December 11, 2019

Today, I wish to talk about a personal passion. I am a transplant recipient. I have the kidney of a 39-year-old man living within me.

It was a long and arduous road from the time I had a major bleed from the bowel in 2002 that shutdown my perfectly good kidneys until I had a rebirth on Sept. 21, 2015.

The major reason for my 13-year wait for a suitable organ was simply that I have the wrong blood group. B group represents only about seven percent of the population so the pool of potential donors is very limited unlike Groups O or A which may receive a kidney in three or four years.

While I will speak to the need for kidney donations for reasons that will become readily apparent, the need is also great for life-saving organ donations for heart, liver, lung and all remaining organs. So I urge you to take a moment during this Holiday Season to consider becoming an organ donor and leaving behind your passing a living legacy.

Ontario's Trillium Gift of Life Network, which has just been rolled into the new Ontario Health agency, controls both the advocacy for registering potential transplant donors and the transplant list.

Allocation is based simply on how close a match the offered organ has to the patient's own organ including size which can be critical in the case of heart transplants, for example.

Now for a really stunning statistic: World-wide with a few exceptions the need for kidneys represents about 70 percent of all organs required for transplantation. The remaining 30 percent is made up of an aggregate of all other organ needs.

Ontario's transplant list varies in numbers as patients are added or drop off because of transplant or death, but generally hovers around 1,500 people of which as many as 1,200 are looking for a kidney donor. One person needing an organ dies every three days.

The Canadian Institute for Health Information did a 10-year study on organ need and donations. The results showed that during each year the need rose almost exponentially while the rate of donations remained almost static.

Now for stunning fact number two: The single most important reason for kidney failure can be summed up one word. Diabetes.

The World Health Organization began compiling data on diabetes in 1980. At that time there were 180 million diabetics in the world. Today, that number is approaching 450 million. We are facing a pandemic of diabetes, a fact any health care professional will attest they face almost daily.

While health care professionals are careful to say we are making inroads, which we are, the fact remains we need to do more. And that means increasing education, awareness and donor registrations.

Diabetes accounts for nearly 40 per cent of all kidney failures necessitating dialysis to keep the patient alive. This is followed by high blood pressure which represents about 30 percent of patients. I fall into the last 30 percent which represents other health related circumstances including various forms of kidney disease like polycystic kidneys. For those unfamiliar with polycystic kidneys, it is a condition where cysts continually appear on or in the organ and eventually cause failure.

It is important to note that even if you can still pass urine, you could still have kidney failure. That's because the kidneys are not functioning properly to clear blood of toxins.

Your family doctor will usually ensure the Creatinin in your blood is measured during your annual check-up. Creatinin is a measure of the amount of nitrogen being released from body muscles. On its scale, a man's normal rage will be in the 100 range while a woman's normal is 90.

If the Creatinin increases on the scale there is a lowering of organ function that can lead to a need for dialysis.

As mentioned above, if you can't control your diabetes or you high blood pressure you are a candidate for dialysis. And, if you can't control your diabetes and high blood pressure, I or someone like me, will likely greet you as you enter the dialysis clinic for the first time.

As a result of my transplant experience and the years of dialysis I endured, I became an advocate for Trillium Gift of Life Network. I make presentations and discuss the need for people to register as donors.

Incidentally, anyone over the age of 16 can register and there is no upper age limit. All that's needed is a valid health card which will be replaced with a new one that states the holder is an organ donor in case of accident.

Donor registrations have been gaining momentum as records have been set in of the last three years. But there is a caveat: the bulk of registrations are from 20- and 30- somethings.That means a bulk of these donors may not be able to donate for at least 10 years or more.

The most common response I hear when I ask if a senior citizen is a donor who are among the best sources for orgran donations: "I'm too old; my organs are falling apart, etc."

That is a fallacy. Recently in the U.S., a 94-year-old man donated a living kidney. The record for tissue donations which includes the eyes was a person aged 102.

If you haven't registered, please consider doing so. If you wish to register you will need your health card and a couple of minutes online. You can register at beadonor.ca/a15lions.

As a former co-ordinator for Gift of Life in Lions International District A15 which covers about 60 clubs from the Orangeville area to Grand Bend on Lake Huron, I have met with many people who have kidney disease or who are on dialysis. Each is praying and hoping that someone will generously have it in their heart to leave an organ so they can return to being a contributing citizen in society.

It man be a cliche but the life you save could be someone near and dear. And the recipient will forever remember the generousity and love you left them.

And, one last point: ensure you tell your family and friends you wish to donate your organs.

That's it. Until next time.


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