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Local group aims to raise awareness through BeADonor Month

Pre-COVID gathering on Green Shirt Day. Image provided by the Transplant Advocate Association.

April is BeADonor month in Ontario, and is celebrated by people who have received the gift of life in communities all over the province. The celebrants are individuals who have either donated or received live organs, as well as the families and friends of those who either gave or received the gift of life.

Once again this year, in the Kingston region, proclamations are being made by several local councils recognizing April as BeADonor month, according to a release from the Transplant Advocate Association (TAA). The TAA is a support group for transplant recipients and those in the transplant process, and their families. They work closely with the Trillium Gift of Life Network in offering support and encouragement to individuals and education to the communities in which we live.

April 7 is Green Shirt Day, inspired by Logan Boulet and the many lives he saved through the donation of his organs following the tragic Humbolt Broncos bus crash in April 2018. The BeADonor flag will be raised in Kingston and City Hall will be lit up in green. A flag raising will also take place at Quinte West City Hall, and the Trenton Bridge will also feature green lights on April 7.

Today, in Ontario, there are over 1,500 people waiting for a lifesaving organ transplant and every three days someone will die because they did not get their transplant in time, the TAA expressed. The Trillium Gift of Life Network, Ontario’s organ and tissue donation and transplant agency, is encouraging Ontarians to show their support by registering as organ and tissue donors.

One Kingston resident who celebrates BeADonor month annually is Francesca (Frankie) Creet. According to the TAA, Creet had been forced to retire early due to a long term illness and was concerned that she would not survive much longer without a liver transplant. She was essentially unable to care for herself, so moved to an assisted living facility. She waited for 18 months after she was listed, and in April 2013 she received part of a liver from a live organ donor whom she did not know and who chose to remain anonymous to her. Creet reports that receiving a liver transplant restored her energy and allowed her to resume her favourite hobbies: reading, photography and gardening. Her good health also inspired her to take up painting, and she is extremely grateful to her live donor for the gift of life.

In 2018, another Kingston transplant recipient, Rick Kimble, who had lived with a hereditary lung disease for 30 years, received a birthday present he won’t ever forget. The TAA said he had been listed just five weeks earlier, and was prepared for a lengthy wait. On December 3, his 70th birthday, he blew out his candles and wished for lungs – three days later he received the call that saved his life and he underwent a double lung transplant in Toronto the following day. Father of four, and grandfather of five, Kimble has been able to enjoy activities he hadn’t done in many years. He’s even admitted to enjoying cutting the grass and shoveling snow occasionally after his transplant and, these days, he particularly enjoys spending time with his family, and boating and fishing at the family cottage. Kimble is forever grateful to both his donor and his medical team, the TAA said. He and his family members are so thankful that in the midst of a tragic situation, another family was able to make the decision to give life to someone else. It is a gift they all treasure, and Kimble tries to make every day count.

Both Creet and Kimble have received the support of the Transplant Advocate Association, a group which is based in Kingston, but whose members represent Kingston, Frontenac, Hastings, Prince Edward, Northumberland, Lennox & Addington, Lanark Leeds Grenville and Peterborough counties. According to the release, the group provides valuable encouragement, support and advice to pre- and post-transplant individuals and their families, as well as providing education to the communities in which they live, about organ and tissue donation, transplantation, and how to become an organ donor.

While over 90 per cent of Ontarians say they support organ donation, only 35 per cent have formally registered their consent for organ and tissue donation, and many more tend to believe they are already registered because they signed their donor consent on their driver’s license, according to the release. The TAA said the truth is that piece of paper is not always available to people in the moment, and donor cards are no longer in use in Ontario.

Potential organ donors must also register at www.BeADonor.ca or at your local Service Ontario centre, to ensure that your wishes can become known to your family and the medical personnel who are caring for you. Donor registration will not impact medical care, as registration status is only accessed at end-of-life to share a person’s donation wishes with their family, according to the release. It also gives families clear evidence of their loved one’s decision to donate and relieves them of the burden of making a donation decision on their loved one’s behalf at a very difficult time.

One donor can save up to eight lives through organ donation, and enhance the lives of up to 75 more through the gift of tissue. While some people believe that their age or medical condition prevents them from donating, in actuality, neither age nor health precludes someone from becoming an organ or tissue donor, the TAA said. Since April 1, 2020, registrations for organ and tissue donations in Ontario have decreased more than 50 per cent versus the same time a year ago, largely due to the decline of in-person visits to Service Ontario centres during the pandemic. For BeADonor Month, the TAA are encouraging Ontarians to register online at BeADonor.ca.

“This April, I’m asking you to register at www.BeADonor.ca and talk to your family about your decision,” said Versha Prakash, Interim President and CEO, Trillium Gift of Life Network. “Everyone these days are spending more and more time online. In just a few clicks on BeADonor.ca, you can check to see if you are already registered, or you can register your consent to donate and give hope to those in your community who are waiting.”

Just as it happened for Creet and Kimble, and for many others right here in our own communities, registering your consent to become a donor could have life-changing results. If you are in the region served by the Transplant Advocate Association, you can also visit www.beadonor.ca/taa_Canada to register and you can get answers to your transplant/donor questions here: https://www.beadonor.ca/about-donation/faqs.

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