New AHS campaign encourages conversations about organ, tissue donation

Click to play video: 'Alberta launches organ donation awareness campaign'
Alberta launches organ donation awareness campaign
WATCH: Every year in Canada, there are people who desperately need a life-saving organ transplant but can't get one. In a bid to increase organ donations and save lives, the province of Alberta has launched a new awareness campaign. Heather Yourex-West reports – Apr 27, 2024

Alberta Health Services is hoping that you will have the conversation about being an organ and tissue donor.

AHS has launched a new, light-hearted campaign in hopes of normalizing the conversation around deceased donations.

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For those who’ve been through it, like Ed Fisher, it can add comfort and confidence when a loved one passes.

In 2017, Fisher’s son, Bryn Fisher, was killed when he was 17 years old, while driving down a rural road in Parkland County. A herd of horses had escaped a neighbour’s yard and one jumped in front of his car.

“We walked to the door and found two policemen,” Fisher told Global News, as he reflected on the night it happened. “They told us that he’d been in an accident, and they told us that he had been taken to the hospital.”

Bryn had been flown by STARS to the University of Alberta Hospital. When the family arrived , staff warned them that Bryn would be attached to machines.

“The doctors basically said to us: ‘He’s not going to make it,'” Fisher said.

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Bryn had suffered severe brain damage.

His family and his girlfriend knew exactly what he wanted in that situation because of a conversation they had earlier.

“He signed his universal donor card,” Fisher said. “I remember him showing us that and being quite proud.”

Click to play video: '‘Give Life Alberta’ program encourages organ and tissue donation'
‘Give Life Alberta’ program encourages organ and tissue donation

But as they said goodbye to their son, the received more devastating news.

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“They actually told us he wasn’t able to donate organs,” Fisher said. “We went home completely crushed because at that point we thought, you know, his final wish wasn’t met.”

Fisher said the family was in a pretty dark place for a while. But then they received a phone call that changed that.

“We had completely forgotten that he was a tissue donor as well,” Fisher said.

“It was a little while later that one of the donor coordinators actually contacted us and said: ‘Just so you’re aware, Bryn’s heart valve has saved the life of a two-day-old baby boy.'”

Click to play video: 'Edmonton-area family shares organ donation story'
Edmonton-area family shares organ donation story

Bryn’s skin was also used to help a 24-year-old burn victim and his bones were used to help others as well.

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“The difference that makes is just … I can’t describe it,” Fisher said. “It’s like there’s nothing and then there’s something.”

Fisher says that even though nothing will give meaning to losing his child, knowing a part of Bryn is still out there is comforting.

“If nothing else, there’s some people out there, some families out there, there’s some parents out there who haven’t had to go through what we went through.”

Click to play video: 'Alberta mother advocates organ donation discussion, sharing son’s inspiring decision'
Alberta mother advocates organ donation discussion, sharing son’s inspiring decision

Those who work for AHS’ said end-of-life decisions can be very difficult on families, especially when those conversations haven’t happened ahead of time.

“Families are going through such an emotional and traumatic time,” said Tara Barkman, a donor coordinator with AHS. “It just helps them feel a lot more confident in what their loved one would want if those discussions have happened beforehand.

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“We encourage families that they are not making a decision for their loved ones,” she added. “They are being their loved one’s voice when they cannot speak for themselves.”

One organ donor can save up to eight lives, and a tissue donor can help up to 75 people. Last year, nearly 50 people on the wait list died waiting for a transplant.

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