August 8, 2020

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Organ donations spike

Health officials see surge in registrations after Humboldt Broncos tragedy

Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 10/4/2018 (851 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

Manitoba’s online organ donor registry — along with donor registries across the country — saw a spike in traffic since the Humboldt Broncos’ bus crash on Friday.

Many social media users say the donation of Broncos player Logan Boulet’s organs has inspired them to become donors themselves, with health officials in British Columbia and Ontario also saying online registrations surged in the days following the horrific crash.

Boulet, a 21-year-old defenceman from Lethbridge, Alta., was among the 15 people who died after the junior hockey team’s bus and a transport truck in Saskatchewan collided Friday. Fourteen others were injured.

Neil Langevin, Boulet’s godfather, posted a statement on Facebook on behalf of the Boulet family saying a surgical team from Alberta travelled to a hospital in Saskatoon to conduct organ transplant procedures early Sunday morning.

Langevin said six people were set to receive the "gift of life" from Boulet, and his other organs would be donated to science.

"Logan had made it known, and very clear to his family, that he had signed his organ donor card when he turned 21 just a few weeks ago," Langevin said in the post. "These actions alone give voice to the selfless and benevolent nature Logan possessed in life for others."

Roberta Koscielny, a spokeswoman for Transplant Manitoba, said between Friday morning and Monday afternoon, there was an increase of 423 organ donor registrations.

This is part of a trend for the organ donor agency.

Manitoba donor physician Dr. Faisal Siddiqui said whenever stories like the Humboldt Broncos bus crash is covered by news media, it sways people who were contemplating donating to actually follow through.

"People recognize that you have to prepare," Siddiqui said, noting that donating one’s organs is a "very" personal decision.

"Sometimes you think about it when something bad happens to you or a loved one, because we don’t sit around talking about death at the dinner table most days.

"This is a very sad story that affects a lot of people and it’s making them think about things that they don’t think about every day. And when that comes up, people want to act."

Any Manitoban looking to become an organ donor can do so by registering at signupforlife.ca.

A spokeswoman for Ontario’s Trillium Gift of Life Network said 182 people registered online to become donors Sunday, up from 67 new registrations on March 25.

The majority of Ontario organ donors register in person, and the number of registrations tends to fluctuate, so it can be challenging to pinpoint any single explanation for the jump, Jennifer Long said.

In British Columbia, 363 people have registered their decisions online since Friday evening, a BC Transplant spokesperson said in an email, compared to 59 registrations over the weekend of March 24 and 25, which is more typical.

Lee Ellis, a 55-year-old dog walker in the Toronto area, said she had been thinking about becoming an organ donor for a while, but only got around to it this weekend after coming across a tweet encouraging others to follow Boulet’s lead.

"There’s always a bit of a silver lining, even in a tragedy like this," Ellis said in a phone interview. "This is definitely going to be part of his legacy. The people that get his organs are going to have a chance at a good life."

Nicole Stokke in Nanaimo, B.C., said on Facebook that it took her less than three minutes to register as a donor on her cellphone, and she didn’t even have to leave her bed.

"It’s such an easy thing that everyone can try to do to help," Stokke, 25, said in a phone interview. "Life is so short. You never know when this kind of tragedy could happen to you."

Ronnie Gavsie, the president and CEO of Trillium, said people across the country have taken heart in Boulet’s story.

"What makes Logan such a hero is that he actually took action," Gavsie said. "His legacy will go on and on as an example to all Canadians of the importance of thinking about giving the gift of life today."

Only 20 per cent of Canadians have registered as organ donors, she said, despite surveys suggesting that 90 per cent of the country supports the cause.

Good intentions are not enough to help the 4,500 people in Canada who currently need a life-saving organ transplant, Gavsie said. Every year, she said the wait list grows, and hundreds of people die without receiving the treatment they need.

She said many people put off registration because they don’t want to think about how this issue could affect them, but she hopes Boulet’s example will jolt Canadians into signing up.

Michelle Vanderhart, a mother of three in Fort MacCleod, Alta., said her two-year-old son Mason is one of the people for whom the decision to register could mean the difference between life and death.

Doctors say Mason will need a liver transplant at some point in his life because of a rare childhood disease, Vanderhart said, and organ donations like Boulet’s mean "the world" to many other families in similar positions.

Every person who registers as a donor has the potential to save eight people’s lives through organ donation, and their tissue could better the lives of 75 others, Gavsie said.

"There can be a gift in this sorrowful time," Gavsie said. "Each of us has such power to save lives, to soften the grief of our families, to take away from them the burden of not knowing what our wishes are."

— with files from The Canadian Press

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