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B.C. has record year for heart and lung transplants

Click to play video: 'Record year for heart and lung transplants in B.C.' Record year for heart and lung transplants in B.C.
Despite a global pandemic, some promising numbers regarding organ donations here in B.C. 2020 was a record-breaking year for heart and lung transplants. As Catherine Urquhart reports, one of those recipients is opening up about his life-saving experience. – Feb 17, 2021

It was a record year for lung and heart transplants in B.C. despite the COVID-19 pandemic.

A record 55 people received a lung transplant and 33 people, including three children, received a new heart.

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Family of B.C. crash victim who helped save 5 lives through organ donation gets letters from 2 recipients – Dec 7, 2019

The BC Liver Transplant program saw 80 liver transplants, matching their 2017 record, and a total of 280 people had a kidney transplant.

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All told, 451 people in B.C. received a life-saving transplant last year.

Vancouver actor Jason Gray-Stanford received a heart transplant last year after going into heart failure and says he is eternally grateful for being given a second chance at life.

“Because of my transplant, I now have the freedom to do everything that I used to do and then some,” he said.

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“This heart is a gift for which I am forever grateful, and one that I shall never squander.”

Read more: How B.C.’s opioid crisis helped set a record for life-saving organ transplants

Sean Keenan, BC Transplant’s provincial medical director for donation services, said improved coordination with staff in intensive care units has contributed to rising transplant numbers.

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“Over the years, we’ve definitely seen a big shift in the way that ICUs and teams look at organ donation,” he said.

“It’s really considered now as an end-of-life option that should be offered to anyone who could potentially be an organ donor.”

Another factor, Keenan said, is the province’s ongoing overdose crisis, which saw a record-high 1,716 deaths illicit drug deaths last year.

Click to play video: 'Record year for heart and lung transplants in B.C.' Record year for heart and lung transplants in B.C.
Record year for heart and lung transplants in B.C – Feb 17, 2021

“Sadly, and probably not surprisingly, our number of organ donors that die as a result of overdose very much tracks what’s going on in the community,” he said.

Read more: B.C. reports record number of illicit drug overdoses in 2020

“The recent coroner’s report showed a very startling high number of people who died and we have seen a proportional increase in our donors who have died of overdoses. It is a real issue. We, like everybody else, would wish to see this improve.”

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Those wishing to register their wish to be an organ donor can visit the BC Transplant website.

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