January 31, 2019 8:34 pm
Updated: March 7, 2019 11:53 am

Record-breaking number of British Columbians received organ transplants in 2018

WATCH: Record number of BC patients saved by organ donations

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More than 500 people in B.C. got a second chance at life last year thanks to the gift of organ donation, setting a new record for the total number of transplants in a calendar year.

A new kidney transplant milestone was reached with 339 transplants. There were also 28 heart transplants in 2018 – tying the record set in 2016 – 50 lung transplants and 77 liver transplants.

Katie Welsh was Canada’s first pediatric heart transplant recipient in 1987, and underwent her second heart transplant at St. Paul’s Hospital last year.

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“I am so grateful for the generosity of not one, but two families who have had the strength to say yes to organ donation in the midst of tragedy,” Welsh said in a release. “I am a mom, wife, daughter, sister and friend because of them.”

READ MORE: Father of special needs children overwhelmed by response to organ donation plea

Health care teams and specialized services across the province, in conjunction with BC Transplant’s Organ Donation and Hospital Development Team, maintain B.C.’s position as one of the national leaders for organ donation and transplantation.

“It takes an incredible team effort to make organ donation happen,” Dr. Sean Keenan, BC Transplant’s medical director of Organ Donation Services said in a release. “Once a family selflessly consents to organ donation on behalf of their loved one, upwards of a hundred people are initially involved for each organ donor and transplant recipient.”

Suzanne Ware and her family in Prince George know exactly what it’s like to consent to donation on behalf of a loved one. After a fire left her brother Matthew in ICU, his organs went on to help four people continue living their lives.

“It was so moving and joyful to know that there was someone out there because of Mattie living their life to the fullest,” Ware told CKPG News.

“I don’t know how to describe it in words, just beautiful.”

There were 512 hospital referrals to the 24/7 BC Transplant clinical referral line in 2018, nearly triple the number from five years ago. Transplant BC says this demonstrates the shift in our culture to fully support organ donation as a normal end-of-life option.

Logan Boulet, a hockey player who passed in the Humboldt Broncos bus crash tragedy, gave the gift of organ donation that saved the lives of six people.

READ MORE: The ‘Logan Boulet effect’: Humboldt Broncos player’s family feels pride, heartbreak in wake of tragic death

Last August, the Dawne Switenky Memorial Foundation in  Saskatchewan named Boulet its humanitarian of the year, with founder Terry Switenky stating the award would be named after Boulet going forward.

Roughly 100,000 Canadians have registered to become organ donors as a result of the Logan Boulet effect, Switenky said.

As of Jan. 1, 2019, 669 people are still waiting for an organ transplant in B.C. There are currently more than 1.35 million British Columbians who have registered their wishes to be an organ donor.

© 2019 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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