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Organ donations rise but many Canadians still on transplant wait list: report

#48in48: Talking to your family about organ donations
Dr. Rahul Mainru from the Saskatchewan Transplant Program explains the importance of talking to your family about your organ donation wishes. Also joining him in this interview with Lisa Dutton is Sandra McIntosh-Broberg, who discusses her reasons for making an organ donation.

Canada has made great strides in organ donation over the past decade, but there’s still a shortage with 4,600 patients waiting for a transplant, a new Canadian Blood Services report says.

Since 2006, organ donations from deceased Canadians climbed by 29 per cent, according to the report.

The CBS report says this is the highest national rate for deceased donors ever documented in the country.

Transplantation over the course of a decade leading into 2015 steadily rose by 23 per cent. That includes organs from living and deceased donors.

Four provinces are leading the way: B.C., Ontario, Quebec and Nova Scotia.

READ MORE: How one family’s difficult organ donation decision saved seven people’s lives

“With the consistent implementation of factors that contribute to high performance, there is opportunity to establish a world-class donation and transplantation system in Canada — one where patients have equal access to transplants regardless of where they live,” Dr. Graham Sher, the CBS’s chief executive officer, said in a statement.

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The national organization says its report is the first of its kind — the full findings were published Friday morning.

“An organ transplant provides far better health outcomes for many patients when compared to other therapies like kidney dialysis. For example, a kidney transplant can double the life expectancy of a patient with end-stage kidney disease, and increase their quality of life,” Dr. Peter Nickerson, the CBS’s medical adviser and a University of Manitoba professor, said.

The CBS report says that by the second year post-transplant, the health-care system saves between $33,000 and $84,000 per patient per year of dialysis.

Keep in mind, the average number of organs procured from a deceased donor is three to four, according to Dr. Andrew Healey, chief medical officer of the Trillium Gift of Life Network (TGLN) on Ontario.

READ MORE: Is social media the latest frontier in organ donation?

A single organ donor can save eight lives: his or her heart, each lung, liver, kidney, pancreas and small bowel can help recipients on a wait list. Tissue and bone donations can also help as many as 75 people.

Healey has seen how the process touches a donor family and helps them with healing.

“It’s inspiring in many ways. In these difficult circumstances, I’m always amazed and in awe of [a family’s] abilities to think logically and represent the views of their loved one in an honest way in their moment of tragedy,” he told Global News.
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“It’s something that’s very powerful for them, and for me and my passion, why I do this work is to ensure, when possible, that something good comes from this tragedy. Families tell us donation brings them comfort in their grief, a solace and peace that allows them to grieve in a healthy way,” Healey said.

READ MORE: One family’s brave story about love, loss and helping others

At a technical briefing to reporters on Thursday, the experts re-iterated how thankful they are to Canadians and their families making the decision to step forward as donors.

Now, Canada’s donation rate (from deceased donors) is among the top 20 in the world.

There’s a reason why: health officials have focused on mandatory referrals to make sure opportunities to find a donor aren’t lost, while hospitals have donation specialists in-house and ready to have that difficult conversation with families who may not have donation at the forefront of their minds.

Each year, Global News runs a #48in48 campaign during Organ and Tissue Donation Awareness Week.

READ MORE: Kidney transplants could save health care system millions, report says

For 2016, Global News started 48,000 conversations about organ and tissue donation within a 48-hour timeframe.

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We partnered with provincial transplant organizations and liveon.ca in hopes of getting more Canadians to sign up as organ donors.

Read the full CBS report here.

carmen.chai@globalnews.ca