Organ Donation & Transplantation
I'm a Transplant Recipient
Do you ever think about Organ Donation?
I didn't think about it much until my doctor told me my kidneys were failing.
I'm the Recipient of a Kidney Transplant
In 1996, after waiting two and one-half years, I received a kidney transplant on April 17th, 1996.
My brother, Todd, donated one of his kidneys — literally the gift of life!
The freedom from needing to deal with peritoneal dialysis four times a day is priceless. I no longer have to schedule my life around the requirements of my dialysis sessions and I have far fewer diet restrictions.
So is My Wife
In 2002 I married Michelle, also a kidney transplant. It is unlikely we'd have been able to marry if we didn't have healthy renal transplants.
- My kidney transplant, a living donor, was on April 17, 1996.
- Michelle's kidney transplant, the gift of someone she never knew, was on December 4, 1979.
Both of us continued to enjoy stable renal transplants until recently when Michelle was told that her transplant's health was declining. This resulted in a drastic reduction in her ability to enjoy an active lifestyle and she began hemodialysis barely a month before her transplant's 38th anniversary.
Michelle is 4 feet 6 inches because her kidney transplant was received before she was fully grown (her new kidney was the first adult kidney transplanted into a child in B.C.). The doctors didn't allow her to reach the height enjoyed by her brothers because the transplant could not grow with her.
An average of 15 people every day learn that their kidneys have failed.
You May Be at Risk
Facing the Facts
Facing the Facts infographics produced the Kidney Foundation of Canada includes information from the Canadian Organ Replacement Register.
About Kidney Disease
- 1 in 10 Canadians has kidney disease, and millions more are at risk.
- 47% of new patients starting renal replacement therapy are under age 65.
- The two leading causes of kidney failure are diabetes (38%) and renal vascular disease, including high blood pressure (14%).
- The number of people living with endstage kidney disease has grown 36% since 2006.
- There is no cure for kidney disease.
- In 2012, kidney disease was the 10th leading cause of death in Canada.
About Organ Donation
- Nearly 76% of the 4,585 Canadians on the waiting list for an organ transplant are waiting for a kidney.
- Of the 24,214 people on dialysis, only 14% are on the waiting list for a transplant.
- 89% of kidneys from living donors and 84% from deceased donors were still functioning at least 5 years after transplant.
- 89% of kidneys from living donors and 84% from deceased donors were still functioning at least 5 years after transplant.
There is no cure for kidney disease and the treatment options are few:
- Conservative Care
Initially, your renal team (doctor, nurse, dietitian, social worker) will make some changes to your lifestyle including diet choices to reduce the workload on your kidneys and to prolong the period before dialyses becomes necessary.
At this time you'll be informed about your treatment options and be able to choose between the options that are best for you.
The initial treatment is most likely to be either:
- hemodialysis (usually 4–5 hours three times a week); or
- peritoneal dialysis (usually four times a day, every day).
You will need to continue dialysis for the rest of your life or until you have a kidney transplant.
A kidney transplant is currently the best form of treatment for most people. It is the treatment that allows the closest to normal lifestyle but is not an option for everyone.
You must meet the criteria to get onto the transplant waiting list and while on the waiting list your body has to endure the rigors of dialysis. There are a number of factors that are considered when determining if a person is suitable for transplant and who receives the organs that become available.
There are two main categories of transplant:
- transplant from a living donor; or
- transplant from a person who has died suddenly.
If you decide to let the disease run its natural course, conservative care provides comfort care, both physical and emotional.
The Transplant Wait List
Many people are waiting for Organ Transplants and some will die waiting (nearly a third of the people who died while waiting for organs were waiting for a kidney).
Eva Markvoort (1984–2010), pictured in the BC Transplant graphic above, was a remarkable woman that lost her battle with cystic fibrosis. She is featured in 65_RedRoses, a film that looks at the human side of waiting for a transplant.
Transplantation Improves Quality of Life
Transplantation provides the best quality of life for a renal patient (and often the only treatment option for other diseases).
Up to 8 Lives Improved
1 organ donor can save up to 8 lives. That's 8 lives that are greatly improved when one person chooses to be a donor.
It is important to realize that a kidney transplant is not a cure. It is a treatment just like dialysis, but offers greater freedom (albeit with issues related to drug interactions with side effects like reduced bone density and higher risks for certain cancers).
I can't begin to tell you of the improvements in quality of life that an organ transplant brings to the recipient. It ends the uncertainty of not knowing when the call from the transplant list will come and lets you get on with living your life.
The Legacy: a Gift of Life
For the families of the donors, know that the selfless giving nature of your loved one continues to live on in the improved well-being of the organ recipients. It truly is a gift of life.
Transplantation Makes Economic Sense
Transplants are cost-effective and the success rate is excellent.
Dialysis is the most common treatment for kidney failure and costs the health care system between $56,000 and $107,000 per patient per year. The cost of a kidney transplant, including donor costs, is approximately $100,000 initially, decreasing to $20,000 in care costs for year two and decreasing annually each year thereafter. — Kidney Foundation of Canada
The success rate for a kidney transplant from a living donor is 90–95% after one year and the transplanted kidney lasts 15 to 20 years on average. For transplants from a deceased donor, the success rate is also high: 85–90% of these kidneys are working well after one year and will last on average from 10 to 15 years. — Kidney Foundation of Canada
These cost savings don't take into account the tremendous increase in quality of life for the recipient.
Long Waiting List
This can be a very long wait for many people. The average wait for a kidney transplant in B.C. is 5.5 years — the highest in Canada 2008–2010. About 76% of those on the waiting list need a kidney.
Why such a long wait?
- Demand is increasing and far outstrips supply (see the current organ donation & transplant statistics).
- While 95% of British Columbians support organ donation, only about 20% have registered their decision on the B.C. Organ Donor Registry.
- Donor rates average 20 donors/million in BC.
Check out the numbers: Quick facts on organ donation and transplant in BC (PDF).
Transplantation Reduces Demand for Scarce Dialysis Facilities
Demand is Up For Dialysis
Hemodialysis demand in Victoria has been increasing at a rate of 17% per year.
Transplantation Eases Demand
Transplantation will help to ease the demand for these facilities and greatly improve the quality of life for the patients that receive a transplant.
What Can I Do?
There are several things that you can do to help reduce the wait for people to receive a transplant:
- Fill out the Organ Donor Registry Form for each member of your family.
- A decal on your driver's licence or care card is no longer enough.
- Register or verify your decision online — it only takes 2 minutes yet could make a tremendous difference to someone waiting for a transplant. Paper forms are also available at ICBC and Service BC offices.
- Age is not a criteria. Canada's oldest donor was 93.
- Talk to your family about your wish to donate your organs and tissues so they won't have to face uncertainty in allowing your valuable contribution.
- Less than one percent of British Columbians die in a way that would enable them to become an organ donor.
- Approximately one of every three organs that could be available for transplant is lost because the wishes of the loved one are not known by their family.
- Consider the LDPE (Living Donor Paired Exchange) registry
- Financially Support the Kidney Foundation of Canada
- The Kidney Foundation of Canada has raised more than $100 million to support life-saving kidney research across Canada.
- The Kidney Foundation funded the development of Peritoneal Dialysis techniques.
- The Kidney Foundation funded clinical trials of EPO (erythropoietin, a hormone used to enhance the production of red blood cells in kidney patients to fight anaemia).
- Learn more about the Kidney Foundation…
- Volunteer for the Kidney Foundation:
- The Kidney Foundation has a Victoria Regional Chapter.
- Healthy volunteers are needed for a variety of tasks.
- Have a volunteer speak to your service club, school, employee group, etc.
- There are a number of people trained to speak about this issue (while I did this for a number of years, I am no longer actively speaking).
- These volunteers are transplant recipients, living donors, family members and others that have a keen interest in reducing the wait lists in British Columbia.
5-Year Kidney Foundation Campaign to Reduce Wait Lists
The Kidney Foundation began an intensive 5-year Kidney Donor & Organ Donor Registration Campaign in January 2015. The goal is to increase kidney transplants and organ donor registration by 50%. If successful, it will cut the wait list for kidney transplants in half by 2019.
There is no cure for kidney disease. Kidney transplants are still the best available therapy for someone surviving on dialysis. We know that between 30% and 40% of people waiting will never get the kidney they need because there are not enough kidney donors. — Karen Philip, Executive Director BC & Yukon Branch in Kidney News, Winter 2015
To learn how you can make a difference, contact the Kidney Foundation of Canada, BC & Yukon Branch.
The B.C. Organ Donor Registry
Established in 1997
British Columbia became the first province in Canada to establish a new Organ Donor Registry in 1997.
Drivers License Sticker Invalid
The ODR replaces all previous forms of consent including a sticker or the words ORGAN DONOR stamped on your drivers license.
There is a Critical Shortage of Organ Donors
Only 20% Registered
There is a critical shortage of organ donors. According to BC Transplant Society:
- While 95% of British Columbians agree with organ donation, only 20% have registered their decision.
- The chances that you will require an organ transplant far outweigh the odds that you will ever be a potential organ donor. Less than 1% of British Columbians die in a way that would enable them to become an organ donor.
- It takes only 2 minutes to register your decision on organ donation online.
- After registering, talk to your family about your wishes. Unfortunately, some organs that could be available for transplant are lost because the decision of the loved one is not known by their family.
- Factors contributing to better deceased donor rates on Vancouver Island were the work of the physician lead and in-hospital donation coordinator; expansion of donation after cardiac death as a donation option; and increased education and support for staff working in critical care areas.
March 2017 organ donor and transplant statistics:
- 1,064,567 people are signed up with the Organ Donor Registry in B.C. (approximately 20% of the population).
- There are 640 people on the waiting lists in B.C. Wait times can be longer depending upon your blood type but average over 5 years.
- There have been 82 transplants so far in 2017.
- There were 418 transplants in 2016, 416 in 2015, 324 in 2014, 342 in 2013, 303 in 2012, 286 in 2011, 292 in 2010 and 207 in 2009.
- 4,399 patients are being followed post-transplant.
People Will Die Waiting For Transplants
Nearly 76% of the 4,585 Canadians on the waiting list for an organ transplantation are waiting for a kidney. In 2015, a third of the people who died while waiting for organs were waiting for a kidney.
When you consider that less than 1% of all deaths in B.C. will result in organ donation, there is a critical need to improve registration. If everyone in B.C. was registered there would be a significant reduction in the waiting list.
Are You Registered?
For more information contact The British Columbia Transplant Society.
The Kidney Foundation of Canada
The Kidney Foundation of Canada focuses on three areas:
- Research - finding effective treatments for kidney disease. About half the research dollars spent on kidney disease research in Canada was funded by the Kidney Foundation. Governments provide basic health care but don't fund the necessary research.
- Public Education - aimed at improving the number of organ donors and reducing the long waiting lists.
- Patient Services - such as funding the production and distribution of the binder Living with Kidney Disease. This manual is used to inform newly diagnosed patients and their families about the types of renal (kidney) disease, the various forms of treatment available, renal diets and the process of learning to live with a serious disease.
Kidney Car Program
If you or your business have old or unwanted vehicles, such as trucks, boats, motor homes, motorcycles, trailers, ATVs or even farm equipment, consider the benefits of donating to Kidney Car.
The Kidney Car Program would be happy to take your unwanted vehicle off your hands. Donating your vehicle will give you the satisfaction of cleaning up the air and making a difference in the life of someone with kidney disease. Plus, you'll also receive:
- A free tow;
- an official tax receipt; and
- that warm fuzzy feeling that you helped The Kidney Foundation reduce the burden of kidney disease.
The Foundation recycles these donated vehicles, with the proceeds helping the work of the Kidney Foundation in fighting kidney disease. See the Kidney Car Program's FAQ for additional details.