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Seven hundred Albertans waiting for lifesaving organ donations

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Credit: Fairview Post, Breanna Driedger

More than 4,500 people in Canada are waiting for a transplant that will save their life, with more than 700 Albertans on a waitlist.

They explain the difference between an organ and tissue donation; an organ donation is when an organ such as a lung, heart, or kidney is given to someone else, and a tissue donation is when something like corneas, bone, or skin is given to someone else.

“Donations from a deceased donor usually occur when the donor dies suddenly after a severe brain injury. This often happens because of a motor vehicle accident, bleeding in the brain, or a trauma such as a very bad fall,” wrote AHS in a media release.

In this situation, organs can be donated if there is severe brain damage, the person is longer alive, and they have been maintained on a ventilator until the organs are removed.

“Other times, an organ donor may be a living donor. This means that donating the organ will not harm the person. An example of this is when a brother gives one of his two kidneys to his sister or a mother gives part of her liver to her child.”

Organs that have the ability to be transplanted include:

  • Heart
  • Lungs
  • Liver
  • Kidney
  • Pancreas
  • Pancreas islet cells
  • Small bowel
  • Stomach

Tissues that have the ability to be transplanted include:

  • Cornea
  • Sclera (white of the eye)
  • Heart valves
  • Skin
  • Bone
  • Tendons
  • Amniotic tissue

“The criteria for organ and tissue donation can change and there may be certain reasons a person can’t donate. It’s often related to a person’s medical or social history, or illnesses. The organs and tissues have to be healthy and the donor must not have any diseases that could harm the recipient.”

AHS says for information on donating organs while someone is still living to contact a family doctor who will make a referral to a specialist.

The Alberta Organ and Tissue Donation Registry says registry to donate has become easier. As of Mar. 31, 2020, donors don’t need to sign and send a consent form.

They say those wanting to donate need to discuss wishes with family, explaining to them what they want to happen when they die, access the registry to record choices if someone is over 18 (or visit a registry agent office), or sign the back of their healthcare card if it was issued before 2018.

If someone wants to donate while they’re still alive, the Living Donor Program is available.