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Organ donation week helps raise awareness, highlights need

Dr. Andrew Healey, a Grand Falls-Windsor native, is the current chief medical officer for the Trillium Gift Network, the organization that oversees Ontario’s organ transplant program.
Dr. Andrew Healey, a Grand Falls-Windsor native, is the current chief medical officer for the Trillium Gift Network, the organization that oversees Ontario’s organ transplant program.

GRAND FALLS-WINDSOR, NL - Newfoundland native Dr. Andrew Healey keenly understands the importance of organ tissue donation, because a transplant saved his daughter Kate’s life.

Healey is currently the Chief Medical Officer (CMO) with Ontario’s Trillium Gift of Network (TGN), the provincial agency that oversees organ and tissue donation. 

In his role as CMO he works with 59 physicians and five regional medical leads at hospitals across Ontario. 

At the delicate age of four years, Healey’s daughter received a living liver transplant. The organ, donated by his wife, gave their child new life. Perhaps surprisingly, his daughter’s transplant is not where Healey’s initial motivation to improve organ donation numbers began.

“It was during residency that my interest sort of piqued,” said Healey. “It’s funny, people talk about what motivates you to do organ donation. You’re dealing with a patient that’s dying and their family, and if you ask yourself what you want to come from that scenario, the first thing you want is to save the life of your patient.” 

Not all lives can be saved, and Healey says he has seen first hand the effect organ donation can have, not only to the recipient, but for those left to grieve as well.

“If you knew a way to make the grief a little bit less for the family, then you’d want to do that,” said Healey. “As a side effect of that, recipients lives are saved.” 

As many as eight life saving organs can potentially be retrieved from a single donor. Eight opportunities to extend the life of another, but donors are in short supply.

The Town of Grand Falls-Windsor is doing their part. April 23- 29 is the Canadian Blood Services National Organ and Tissue Donation Awareness Week. To help raise awareness, the town has proclaimed the same in Grand Falls-Windsor.   

“Organ donation across Canada, over the last few years, has seen a little bit of a decline,” said Kim Parsons of Eastern Health. “So it is a struggle now to try and figure how we can improve donation rates.”

Parsons says the most important decision is discussing organ donation wishes with your family, while you can. 

“We want to get the information out there as much as possible,” said Parsons. “So that if a family is approached about organ donation, they know what their family members would have wanted.”

Residents of the province can currently elect to become organ donors through a declaration on their provincial drivers license. Not all residents are drivers however, so another step the province of Newfoundland and Labrador has taken to make organ donation easier involves provincial health cards, something all residents possess.   

As MCP cards across the province are replaced through natural expiration, the new replacement cards will offer the organ donation declaration. Those who don’t want to wait can apply for new cards, and indicate their donation preference through Eastern Health’s web page at: http://www.easternhealth.ca/Give.aspx?d=1&id=323&p=53.  

 “The most important message is you talk about this with your family, and register your wish” said Healey. “Organ donation has to become an integrated part of our end of life care so that we always think about that before someone dies.” 

A life could depend on it.

For further information call the Organ Procurement and Exchange of Newfoundland and Labrador at 777-6600 or toll free at 1-877-640-1110. 
 

Patrick.Murphy@SaltWire.com

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