Organ donation saves lives – just ask Brandon Gibson.
The 20-year-old Pickering resident was three months old when he was diagnosed with cystic fibrosis (CF). The build-up of thick mucus in the lungs, caused by CF, resulted in severe damage to Brandon’s lungs.
In 2006 at the age of 14, Brandon received a double-lung transplant improving his quality of life significantly. “I lived a normal teenage life. I played hockey and lacrosse in high school. I was pretty much like any other teenager,” explains Brandon, whose mom Muriel Gibson works at Rouge Valley Health System.
But by June 2011, things began to change. “I noticed that I wasn’t doing as well as I was before. Little things, like walking up the stairs, became harder.” As Brandon’s health declined, his family soon learned that his body was rejecting his new lungs. For the past 14 months, Brandon, who now depends on an oxygen tank to help him breathe, has remained on Trillium Gift of Life Network’s organ recipient wait list. He continues to hope for news that a new set of lungs is ready for him.
Despite his challenges, Brandon makes it a priority to help raise awareness about the impact organ and tissue donation has on Canadians. He frequently speaks to local groups, sharing how organ donation can save lives. “To know that one person can save up to eight lives is amazing,” Brandon says.
More than 1,500 people in Ontario are waiting to receive a life-saving organ donation. Every three days one of them dies because there is no organ available in time for them. Rouge Valley Health System (RVHS) hopes to increase the number of organ and tissue donors, and for the first time, has partnered with the Trillium Gift of Life Network in its Gift of 8 campaign to inspire 200 Ontarians to visit the online registry at www.BeADonor.ca.
Trillium Gift of Life Network, a not-for-profit agency of the Government of Ontario, is responsible for managing the process of organ and tissue donation for transplantation in the province. Rouge Valley’s Gift of 8 campaign ran throughout the month of April to include National Organ and Tissue Donation Awareness Week (April 21 – 27). The Gift of 8 refers to the fact that each organ donor has the potential to save up to eight lives and enhance the lives of as many as 75 others through tissue donation. While 80 per cent of Ontarians say that giving consent for organ and tissue donation in advance is very important to them, fewer than 25 per cent of them have registered.
“In Ontario, there are far too many people waiting for organ and tissue donations,” says Rik Ganderton, president and chief executive officer, RVHS. “While the decision to become an organ donor is a personal one, each day our staff, physicians and volunteers meet patients whose lives are forever changed by organ and tissue donation. This campaign is just one way Rouge Valley can help to raise awareness.”
Be A Donor
Through stories in the local media, and hospital-wide events for staff, physicians, volunteers, RVHS has helped to spread the message of how organ and tissue donation saves lives. By setting up its own Gift of 8 pages for staff and the public to register, the hospital has helped to engage both its staff and the community to help with the challenge. One site has been set up for each of Rouge Valley’s two hospital campuses:
- Rouge Valley Centenary (www.beadonor.ca/rougevalleycentenary);
- Rouge Valley Ajax and Pickering (www.beadonor.ca/rougevalleyajaxandpickering).
Many Ontarians mistakenly believe that they are already registered because they have signed their donor cards. But the paper donor card is no longer an effective way to register your consent, Trillium advises. Ontarians need to visit Beadonor.ca to register or check their registration status.
“Encouraging more Ontarians to register as organ and tissue donors is critically important because too many Ontarians die before receiving the organ transplant they need,” said Ronnie Gavise, president and chief executive officer of Trillium Gift of Life Network. “When we launched Beadonor.ca in 2011, we made it easier for Ontarians to register their consent. Now, by bringing this awareness into the workplace, we are making it even easier for organizations like Rouge Valley to engage their employees and to make a difference in the lives of Ontarians.”