April 9, 2018 4:01 pm
Updated: April 11, 2018 12:00 pm

The Humboldt crash serves as a reminder that Canada needs organ donors

WATCH: How to become an organ and tissue donor in Canada.

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Logan Boulet’s decision to register as an organ donor has easily emerged as an inspirational story amid the immense tragedy surrounding the Humboldt Broncos bus crash that killed 15 and injured 14 others on Friday. The defenceman’s organs will help save six people’s lives.

The Boulet family told Global News in a statement: Logan made it clear previously that he signed his donor card as soon as he turned 21. Even in his eventual passing, he will be a selfless hero. He is giving new hope to at least six different people.

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READ MORE: ER doctor calls Humboldt Broncos bus triage ‘most tragic night of my career’ 

Since their announcement on Saturday, organ donation agencies in Canada have seen a significant spike in people registering as organ donors.

“We can’t say with certainty what led to the increase in number of registrations, but on Sunday April 8, we saw a dramatic increase that was three to four times higher than the average Sunday,” Ronnie Gavsie, president and CEO of the Trillium Gift of Life Network, tells Global News.

LISTEN: Humboldt victim brings hope to others as family donates his organs

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Similarly, the Canadian Transplant Society (CTS) says they’ve seen a “huge” increase in the number of young people signing up as organ donors.

CEO James Breckenridge tells Global News that while they’ll usually sign between 200 and 300 people as new donors, they’re rarely young people. But an event on Sunday saw 15 to 20 students sign up, many of whom said they were inspired by the crash.

“We noticed that there was a greater increase in younger students and people being aware of what had happened with the crash and now deciding to become an organ donor,” he says to Global News.

Alberta’s Minister of Health Sarah Hoffman confirmed the trend is happening in her province, too. On Sunday/Monday, 897 people became organ/tissue donors when the norm during the same period is only 425 registrations.

Unfortunately, the percentage of Canadians who are registered organ donors is still woefully low.

According to recent data supplied by the CTS, more than 4,500 Canadians are currently waiting for an organ transplant, and while a survey found that 90 per cent of the population says they support organ and tissue donation, only 20 per cent are registered as donors.

“We’ve seen a gradual increase in Ontario over the years, up to 32 per cent, but the Canadian average [of organ donors] is only 20 per cent. This compares to 56 per cent in the United States,” Gavsie says. “We have some work to do in educating each other and moving into action.”

How to register as a donor

Organ donation registration is done provincially, so interested donors can visit the CTA website or Organ Tissue Donation and select your province to complete the requisite forms; you can also sign-up in-person. (People interested in being living donors should contact hospital transplant programs directly.)

READ MORE: Turning tragedy into hope: Lethbridge family donates Humboldt crash victim’s organs

“One donor can save eight lives with their organs, including one heart, two lungs, two kidneys, one liver, one pancreas and one small bowel,” Gavsie said. “You can also enhance the lives of others through tissue like eyes, skin, bones and heart valves, which are especially important for children who are born with congenital heart disease.”

Gavsie also points out that pre-existing medical conditions or any other concerns related to age or general health should not stop anyone from registering, as everyone’s organs are tested for medical suitability before being considered for use.

“There’s no limit to who can donate. Our oldest tissue donor was over 100 years old and the oldest recorded organ was donated by someone over 90.”

In fact, the University Health Network has extended criteria for accepting organs from people with hypertension and diabetes, and one innovative clinical trial demonstrated “good results with using organs from donors with hepatitis C, removing the virus with the latest drug regimen within 12 weeks,” according to a statement.

In addition, Gavsie says, organ donation will not affect funeral arrangements or preclude anyone from an open-casket funeral.

If, however, you decide at any time to change your mind, you can easily take your name off the donation registry.

What Boulet’s example means to Canadians

When Jamie Barber heard about the hockey player who donated his organs to six people after the Humboldt Broncos bus crash, he immediately felt a connection.

“I know I don’t have his heart, but we are a community,” he tells Global News.

Barber says it’s people like Boulet who helped him.

He received a heart transplant when he was 21, over 14 years ago. An avid hockey player, Barber says he was unable to play before he received his new heart. But since then, he tries to play two to three times a week.

READ MORE: Investigating Humboldt Broncos crash likely to be a long process, experts say

A Kelowna, B.C. resident, Barber grew up in Calgary, Logan’s home province — a fact that tightens the connection for him.

He says he wants to make sure Boulet’s family knows that “he will live on, his heart is playing hockey still through me,” he says.

“I will think about him giving me the ability to play hockey every time I step on the ice.”

With files from Estefania Duran

© 2018 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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