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Consider the Ultimate Gift

Steve Campbell

This is a different kind of column, but one I hope you will take to heart.
A few days ago, a client of mine died from cirrhosis of the liver. It wasn’t his fault – he received a bad blood transfusion in another country. Hepatitis damaged and scarred this vital organ and, despite exploring every avenue, only a transplant could have saved him.
This led me to draw out my own Organ Donor card – nicely packed in my wallet between my licence and registration. And it occurred to me: There should be more organ donors out there.
And so I started to explore the world of organ donation, and the journey had a few surprises.
First, having that little card I filled out in 1970 does not make me an organ donor. Like everything else in this world, if you hope to be an organ donor, you need to register, so they have a computer record of your wishes.
Second: It’s easy to be an organ donor. You can go on-line to beadonor.ca, or Google the Ontario Trillium Gift of Life Network. Non-computer people can also register at any Service Ontario location – where you attempt to get your licence or Health Card.
More on the mechanics of this later, but first I need to address the emotional and spiritual aspects of being an organ donor.
I signed up a thousand years ago, when I got my first driver’s licence. (Yes, they had cars then.) Why? Because I think the Greatest Gift you can leave behind when your physical body gives out, is the Gift of a better life for those who suffer.
Your ‘harvestable’ organs can change the lives of a dozen people or more. Nothing would make my soul and spirit happier.
Mind you, I’m not exactly the Gift of the Century. Let me give you a Grocery List of Steve’s Organs.
My eyeballs suck. But not to someone who can see again – perhaps, for the first time in their lives, if conditions are right.
My heart should be built like Schwarzenegger’s, after 36 years in business. Like a Timex watch, it takes a lickin’ and keeps on tickin’. All those all-nighters in the early days of County Mag have built a powerhouse of a heart, though I’m sure it’s horribly resentful of the reckless abuse.
Other than kidneys, lungs and liver  are the two most required organs, because they have regenerative qualities, and are amazingly adaptable.
This is a good thing, because I haven’t treated either of them particularly well. Still, my constant regimen of body abuse should make that package virtually bulletproof. My liver alone will probably not give up until about 2053, and will probably be quite thankful when it gets a new host.
I’m not sure hair transplants are on the list of vital organs, but I’m pretty sure mine would draw a pretty good line-up. My hair can do anything from Bob’s Big Boy to Bozo the Clown, even though I wanted it to do John Lennon. It grows faster than chickory weeds on your lawn, thanks to my Mom’s side of the family. I’m sure it would be highly marketable. Possibly even baleable.
And I’m not sure if they’ve perfected genital transplants yet, but I’m sure every right-thinking guy would say what every woman has said all my life: “No thanks, I’d rather have the liver.”
On a more serious note, there is a dire need for more organ donors. The websites above are packed with information, and the Frequently Asked Questions will set your mind at ease.
High on the list is letting your family know your wishes, before they need to deal with all the other activities that surround the death of a loved one.
Some people have religious objections, although organ donations are embraced by most of the world religions.
I encountered one person who said they had to go to heaven in ‘one piece’, so they can be arisen during the Rapture on Christ’s return. I pointed out that Martin Luther, Richard the Lion-Heart, Abraham and even Moses have probably not retained their physical shape over the years. I think their interpretation of 1st Thessalonians was taken a little too literally: “Hey, cool, I’m back! Anybody want to go to McDonald’s? I’m famished!”
To me, I can’t believe in a God that would prevent me from helping others, after my physical body expires.
Being the curious type, I wanted to know the mechanics of how the system works. Do the cops call in when they arrive at the scene of a fatality? How does anyone know you are a donor? We all know time is of the essence when it comes to transplants. How do they make it happen?
I got the answers from Leona Hollingsworth, Media Relations for the Gift of Life group.
So here was my first surprise: “Most of your questions come down to this – we cannot use organs if the person dies outside of a hospital, or a controlled medical environment where ventilation equipment is available.”
Of all the donors in Ontario, only 2-3% die under these circumstances. That tragically reduces the number of organs that can be pressed into service.
All the more reason to sign up.
This also explained how the donors are recognized – they are on file through the database.
The medical care facility will call the Gift of Life group, if they feel that a donor is about to become available. The Trillium Group often assigns a co-ordinator for the case, to deal with the hospital and, more importantly, the family.
They also make sure everything runs smoothly, from the medical side to the emotional side.
Quite an operation, so to speak.
Leona tells me over 1,500 people are on the waiting list for organs in Ontario alone. Another source stated 150,000 livers required in the U.S., with only 6,000 possible donors.
In 2011, 940 transplants were done in Ontario – which is pretty impressive. Kidneys and liver lead the list, with about half of the donors being living donors, who deserve some kind of Special Angel Award.
Here in the County, we’re a very ‘giving’ community. Please give some thought to giving the ultimate gift, and blessing someone else’s life.

Filed Under: News from Everywhere ElseSteve Campbell

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  1. m york says:

    How true Steve and sorry for your loss, everyone needs to think about this, I know I have….

  2. Ian Robb says:

    Steve, The greatest tragedy is that people are dying because a suitable organ or tissue is not available. Almost 10 years ago someone made a decision to offer their organs/tissue for transplant and in the process saved many lives. Mine was one of them. How can you ever say “Thank You” appropriately to someone unknown to you making this gift possible. My donor and their family are heroes in my eyes. If you speak to anyone else who has received this incredable GIFT (and there are several of us in your local) they will all repeat what I have just said. We hold our donor family in the highest regard and will always think of them until the day arrives when it is our turn to make the same gift to someone else. TALK ABOUT IT…encourage our Mayor and councillors to get behind a campaign to encourage residents to sign up and be counted. (Thank you for sharing your friends story Steve.) Ian

  3. richard St Amour says:

    Excellent blog well done !!!

  4. fed up says:

    I support this wholeheartedly. Signed up online the other day, after finding out the wallet card was useless. Come on people, what use will you have for your organs after you’re dead? Go the website for the Trillium gift of life–just google it, and read all about what a difference you can make!

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