by David Herman
On April 6, 2018 sixteen people were killed and thirteen injured when a northbound coach bus struck a westbound semi-trailer truck near Armley, Saskatchewan. The bus was carrying the Humboldt Junior Hockey team to a game with first-place Nipawin Hawks. As hard to believe as it seems, there was a positive light that shone from the tragedy. One of the players killed was Logan Boulet. Just weeks before, when Logan turned 21, he had signed an Organ Donation card and made his family aware of what he had done. Logan had been inspired to do this by his coach and mentor, Ric Suggitt, who also was a donor. A few things grew from this selfless act. Firstly, from their organ donations twelve people who were waiting for organs gained a new lease on life. The second thing, which is almost more amazing than saving those six lives from Logan’s donations, is what is called the “Logan Boulet Effect”.
When people learned of what Logan had done, there were over 100,000 people who signed their organ donation card. From this has come the “Green Shirt Day” (April 7) on the anniversary of Logan’s passing, to refresh our collective memory of organ donation and the need to register your willingness to be a donor. It is also important to say that, once you register, you should make sure that your family is aware of your decision.
The fact is that 200 people die each year while waiting for an organ transplant. Some other statistics are that, in Ontario alone, there are 1,650 people waiting for a transplant. It has been shown that 90% of Canadians support organ donation, BUT only 23% have registered to be organ donors. To register to be an organ donor, you must be 16 years of age, provide your date of birth, provide your health card number and version code if applicable. There are a few ways to register. You can register on line at: www.ontario.ca/page/organ-and-tissue-donor-registration; or in Person at any Service Ontario centre; or by completing a Gift of Life consent form and sending it to: Service Ontario, Organ Donor Consent, PO Box 48, Kingston ON, K7L 5J3.
After you have registered, you will receive a confirmation letter if you complete a new registration, update your registration information, or withdraw your consent.
Not to belabour the point, but in Ontario every three days someone will die because they did not get their transplant in time. We can help by registering our consent for organ and tissue donation. One donor can potentially save up to eight lives through their donation and enhance the lives of up to 75 more through the gift of tissue. Age alone will not disqualify someone from becoming a donor. The oldest Canadian organ donor was 92, and the oldest tissue donor was 104.
Your current and past medical history does not prevent you from registering to be a donor. Individuals with serious illnesses can sometimes be organ and/or tissue donors. Each potential donor is evaluated on a case-by-case basis. All major religions support organ and tissue donation, or respect the individual’s choice. Organ and tissue donation does not impact funeral plans. An open casket funeral is possible.
Today’s young people are much more in tune with what is going on. Just look at Ethan Bos, who made a presentation to the April 2 Committee of the Whole in North Grenville. Ethan is 12 and he is making public speeches to classmates, 100 Kids Who Care, as well as to hockey teammates and friends. Even if someone is not 16 yet, their parents can sign a registration card for them if that is their child’s wish. No parent wants to think of their child dying before them; but think how happy they would be if their child was in need of a transplant and somebody else’s child had made their wish known to their parent and the parent had registered their child. Years ago, my wife’s nephew was just 21. He was in the driveway washing his car and he dropped dead of a cerebral aneurysm that had burst. His parents donated his organs and tissue, and he changed seven lives and, by extension, how many others benefited by his donations? Now, that is a legacy.
You may be saying: OK, but Green Shirt Day was last week, old news; but the need for organ donors is never old news. I am hoping that if you have not registered as an organ donor, you will make the decision now to change that and, if you did register many moons ago, that you will verify that you are registered. To check your current status with respect to organ donation, check the back of your health card and it will say DONOR and then a 2-digit code. Code Z9 and 9Z are the most common codes. Z9 indicates that the person has consented to any needed organs and tissues to be used for transplant only, while 9Z indicates that the person has consented for any needed organs and tissues be used for transplant and organ and tissue research. The complete list of codes can be found at: www.giftoflife.on.ca/resources/pdf/Ministry_of_Health_Organ_donor_codes.pdf.
The last thing is to let your family know what your wishes are, so that they can ensure your wishes are respected.