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Saskatchewan recognizes Green Shirt Day to encourage organ donation

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WATCH: The Saskatchewan government declared April 7 as Green Shirt Day, a nationwide day to raise awareness about organ donation in memory of Humboldt Bronco Logan Boulet. – Apr 3, 2019

Saskatchewan historically has been below the national average of organ and tissue donation, but there are efforts to change that.

The province officially declared April 7 as Green Shirt Day, a new, nationwide day to raise awareness about organ donation in memory of Humboldt Bronco Logan Boulet.

Boulet lost his life in the April 6, 2018, Broncos bus crash. Six lives were saved when his wish to be an organ donor was honoured.

READ MORE: Green Shirt Day being proclaimed in Saskatoon to honour Humboldt Broncos player

In Saskatchewan’s effort to increase organ donor rates, the province announced in the 2019-20 budget it is developing a donor registry.

“Because it so clearly indicates what a person’s wishes are, they found that in over 90 per cent cases in jurisdictions with registries that families honour those wishes,” Health Minister Jim Reiter said.

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“Whereas in locations where we don’t, like in Saskatchewan, it’s less than 50 per cent.”

READ MORE: Saskatchewan government developing organ donor registry

Even if you have an organ donor sticker on your health card, your family or next-of-kin still have final say in whether or not your organs are donated after death.

The province has previously mulled the idea of presumed consent, meaning people would have to opt out of being a donor.

Nova Scotia became the first Canadian province and jurisdiction in North America, to adopt presumed consent Monday.

Reiter said it was recommended the province continue research on the subject because of potential legal and constitutional hurdles.

“We’ve said all along we haven’t ruled out presumed consent, but we think the registry is still important because it indicates the wishes, and if we ever do move down the presumed consent road obviously we would need some kind of an opt-out provision,” Reiter said.

WATCH BELOW: The Logan Boulet effect

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Reiter added Saskatchewan will be watching Nova Scotia’s presumed consent implementation closely and is looking to set up a meeting with that province’s health minister.

Saskatchewan’s organ donor registry is expected to be complete by the end of the fiscal year.

The province has made an effort to recruit more donor physicians, doctors who can help educate others about how organ donation works and how to sign up.

Saskatchewan’s current organ donation rate is approximately 14 deceased people for every million population members. The trend has grown in the past five years, when the ration was 10 deceased people per million in 2014.

The national average is 21 deceased people per million population members, according to advocacy group The Organ Project.

The gift of life

Charlotte L’oste-Brown would not have spoken at Saskatchewan’s Green Shirt Day proclamation if it wasn’t for an organ donor.

She was diagnosed in 2003 with a terminal lung condition and ultimately received a life-saving lung transplant in 2017.

“After such a long wait like that you almost think it’s not going to come; that’s for sure,” she said.

“I can remember the morning I got the call, I was just leaving the house at eight o’clock in the morning and the gal says ‘Charlotte, we have a pair of lungs for you.’ She started describing them, to see if you really want them or not, she didn’t have to describe anything. I was taking them, there was no doubt.”

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READ MORE: Mother says baby named after Humboldt Broncos player a gift

No doubt, because the previous 14 years had been filled with anxiety and physical deterioration that took away L’oste-Brown’s ability to enjoy life and work.

After the operation, L’oste-Brown had a chance to see her old lungs and was told they likely would have only sustained her for another two weeks.

She had a lengthy rehabilitation, but now has been able to restart her life and work full time once again.

L’oste-Brown’s new lungs came from a 30-year-old woman. She thinks of her donor every day when she wakes up and has exchanged letters the donor’s mother.

“Her opening line was I followed my daughter’s wishes to donate her organs as she always wanted to be an organ transplant donor. She says from now on I will think of you as family and then she told me all about her daughter,” L’oste Brown recalled.

“The connection is wonderful. I’m very glad that she opted to speak back to me. I feel the connection that we are like family.”

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