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The gift of organ donations

N Almost 2,000 people in Ontario are waiting for an organ transplant. Out of a possible 11.9 million eligible donors however, only 27%, or 3.3 million, are registered donors.

“I was in complete shock when I learned that my mother was in the hospital for a medical emergency,” says Raymonde whose mother was hospitalized following a brain aneurysm. Raymonde had been out with her mother and her children on a Wednesday night catching up. They parted ways in the parking lot not knowing that only 20 minutes later, her mother would suffer a brain aneurysm while driving that would send her to North York General Hospital (NYGH).

 

Give the gift of life.Raymonde's mom was a very active, spiritual and healthy 74-year-old woman who always put other people first; this was clearly demonstrated by her organ donation registration. Raymonde, along with her sister and uncle, were informed about her mother's medical condition. They knew how strongly she had felt about donating her organs and didn't think twice about approaching the nurses to start the donation process.

Trillium Gift of Life Network (TGLN), which coordinates and manages all of Ontario's organ and tissue donations, was quickly contacted to coordinate further testing. “Although it was a very difficult moment both North York General and TGLN staff were great about making the best out of a hard situation," says Raymonde. "I felt very informed and supported throughout the whole process and was surprised to learn that one can donate both organs and tissue. A person's age is not a factor that stands in the way of donating.”

“When patients in the Emergency Department and in the Intensive Care Unit are identified as possible donors, the staff immediately contacts TGLN to coordinate the consents from the patient's family,” says Bonnie Knox, Clinical Coordinator of the Surgery Program at North York General Hospital. “When the patient or family has consented to organ donation, there are many tests that have to be done in a short period of time before TGLN can deem an organ is in a healthy state to donate.”

Raymonde emphasized the seamless process of bringing everyone together from the staff in the Charlotte & Lewis Steinberg Emergency to the Intensive Care Unit and TGLN. Her mother was able to donate various organs and save up to seven lives. “It was an extension of her life and making something good out of a very tragic situation,” she says

North York General works very closely with TGLN and with families for organ retrievals and donations as the hospital is the first place to identify eligibility. Our staff receives annual training to identify possible organ and tissue donors and to work closely with TGLN and the patient's family.

NYGH is the only hospital in the Central Local Health Integration Network that does corneal transplants. It's a surgical procedure where damaged or diseased cornea is replaced by donated corneal tissue.

“I encourage people to sign up to be organ donors and to have that conversation with your family about your wishes,” says Raymonde. “Many of my family and friends signed up after hearing that my mom donated her organs and gave the gift of life.”

For more information about organ donation and how to sign up, please visit beadonor.ca.
 
September 9, 2015
 
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This article first appeared in the September 2015 issue of The Pulse, North York General Hospital's community newsletter. Subscribe to receive 10 issues per year.


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