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Robert Barron column: Help others in need by registering to be an organ donor

“We felt it was the best way to honour Alistair”
Robert’s column

My heart went out to the Hayne family who visited the Cowichan District Hospital on Dec. 7 as part of the annual Operation Popcorn.

Operation Popcorn is a project begun by the BC Transplant organization in which transplant recipients, living donors and donor family members thank hundreds of health professionals in hospitals across B.C. for the gift of life with gifts of popcorn.

Emma Hayne and her daughter Olivia, as well as the rest of the Hayne family, went through what I can only imagine to be unbelievable pain and suffering when their son/brother Alistair died suddenly in an accidental shooting incident five years ago.

But, even in the depths of their despair at the time, they wanted to make sure that some good would come from Alistair’s senseless death.

Being a young man when he died, I assume Alistair’s organs were in pretty good shape, so the family decided to donate them to people who needed them.

So Alistair’s heart, kidneys, liver and lungs were harvested and put to good use and likely saved the lives of those who received them.

“We felt it was the best way to honour Alistair,” Olivia told me at the hospital.

It was certainly an honourable act by the Hayne family, but the sad fact is that we need a lot more people like them.

The Canadian Organ Replacement Register released a report in June that indicated the need for life-saving organ transplants in Canada remains high.

The CORR said there was a total of 2,782 organ transplants performed in Canada in 2021, with 78 per cent of them using deceased donor organs and 21 per cent using living donor organs.

The report said that as of the end of 2021, a total of 4,043 Canadians were on wait-lists to receive a transplant.

As well, 652 Canadians were removed from the organ transplant wait-list last year and, of those, 38 per cent had died while waiting.

Most people, including myself, have never really given much thought to becoming an organ donor and I think that’s largely the result of the fact that few people who don’t already have some sort of fatal health condition want to seriously consider their own demise.

Just considering it makes many of us superstitious in that if we entertain the idea, it might actually happen.

But it’s time we get all that behind us and recognize the good we could do for others in the event of our untimely deaths.

After all, while it may sound ghoulish to say it, many perfectly healthy people lose their lives on Canada’s highways every day in collisions and, unless these people have officially registered as organ donors, good organs go to waste while people needing them might also die as well.

In B.C., ICBC, the province’s vehicle insurance provider, and BC Transplant formed a partnership in 2017 in which ICBC’s driver-licensing employees across the province began asking customers to register to be organ donors with BC Transplant.

I can’t find any recent statistics, but more than 125,000 ICBC customers registered their decision to become organ donors in the first year of that program alone, which increased organ-donation registrations in B.C. by 15 per cent.

“Our partnership with ICBC has led to more conversations about organ donation in our communities, and now more than ever, British Columbians are registering their wishes for organ donation,” said Leanne Appleton, BC Transplant’s provincial executive director, at the time.

“Thanks to these decisions and the life-saving gifts of organ donors and their families, a record 479 people received a transplant in 2017.”

However, according to government statistics, while more than 95 per cent of British Columbians support organ donation, only about 20 per cent have actually registered their decision to be a donor. Supporting it and actually registering to do it are not the same thing. So if you really want to do something that could help others, sign up to be an organ donor with BC Transplant.

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Robert Barron

About the Author: Robert Barron

Since 2016, I've had had the pleasure of working with our dedicated staff and community in the Cowichan Valley.
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