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
After waiting 2 1/2 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 and probably would not be alive today.
- 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.
Michelle is 4 feet 6 inches because her kidney transplant was received before she was fully grown (her transplant was the first adult kidney transplanted into a child in BC). The doctors didn't allow her to reach the height enjoyed by her brothers because the transplant could not grow with her.
Both of us continued to enjoy stable renal transplants until 2016 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.
Back on Dialysis
Michelle began hemodialysis on November 8, 2017 — barely a month before her transplant's 38th anniversary on December 4th.
Michelle on dialysis, November 8, 2017
Until December 23rd, she spent Monday, Wednesday and Friday mornings in the Royal Jubilee Renal Dialysis Unit hooked up to a hemodialysis machine while waiting for another transplant. The average wait time is too long (not enough people are registered in BC).
Transplant Number 2
While on dialysis on Monday, December 23, 2019, Michelle was told that she was going to receive another kidney transplant and that she was to have a short dialysis session and head to Vancouver General Hospital as soon as possible and report that she was there for a kidney transplant.
Checking in at VGH T4D
Once there, she began the process of meeting the initial admissions requirements, then we were taken up to Solid Organ Transplant on the 4th floor and assigned a bed. The organ was retrieved later that afternoon and we knew that the kidney was viable around 9:00 p.m. (there was a chance the kidney would be declared unsuitable and we'd return to Victoria and dialysis).
Her initial surgery booking was cancelled by an emergency, but at 4:30 a.m. on December 24th she was taken to the operating room for her transplant.
The surgeon described the surgery as challenging but the team did a wonderful job. I got to see her in recovery late that morning.
She is now going through the process of healing and recovering her strength, but her face already has more colour and the new kidney is doing a great job of cleaning her blood and creating urine.
Michelle was discharged from Vancouver General Hospital late on December 31, 2019, but will stay in Vancouver for up to 3 months until the transplant team feel she can be managed by the Victoria Transplant Clinic.
Register Your Wishes
If you have never considered organ donation, please fill out the organ donor registration (you can do it online).
I can't emphasize enough the difference it can make in several people's lives (because up to 8 recipients can benefit from one donor).
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 chronic kidney disease: 4 million Canadians.
- The number of Canadians living with end-stage kidney disease has grown by 35% since 2008.
- 46% of new patients are under the age of 65.
- The two leading causes of kidney failure are diabetes (39%) and renal vascular disease, including high blood pressure (13%).
- Nearly 49,000 Canadians are being treated for kidney failure. 57.5% are on dialysis; 42.5% have a functioning transplant.
- Out-of-pocket costs associated with dialysis can amount to 12.5% of some patients' income.
About Organ Donation
- 78% of the 4,300 Canadians on the waiting list for an organ transplant are waiting for a kidney.
- Of the people on dialysis, only 16% are on the waiting list for a transplant.
- The five-year survival rate for adults with transplanted kidneys is 92% from living donors and 82% from deceased donors.
- 27% of kidney transplants are made possible by living donors. 45% of all living donors are unrelated to the recipient.
- Per million population, there are only 22 people who will become organ donors and 15 people will be living donors.
There is no cure for kidney disease. The main treatments for kidney disease are a proper diet and medications, dialysis, transplantation and 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:
Watch this YouTube video to see an animated illustration of the transplantation procedure.
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 benefit over 75 people and 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 22% 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 valid.
- 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. Q & A: How does the Canadian kidney exchange work?
- 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 active in this role).
- 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
Anyone who is healthy can be a living donor. The age of consent to be a living donor varies from 16 – 19 depending on the province in which you live. They must be in good general health with no evidence of significant high blood pressure, diabetes, cancer, kidney disease, heart disease or hepatitis. — Kidney Foundation of Canada
Only 22% Registered
There is a critical shortage of organ donors. According to BC Transplant Society:
- While 95% of British Columbians agree with organ donation, only 22% 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.
August 31, 2019 organ donor and transplant statistics:
- 1,463,103 people are signed up with the Organ Donor Registry in B.C. (approximately 22% of the population).
- There are 747 people on the waiting lists in B.C. Wait times can be longer depending upon your blood type but average 4 years.
- There have been 327 transplants so far (to August 31) in 2019.
- There were 502 transplants in 2018 479 transplants in 2017, 423 transplants in 2016, 422 in 2015, 326 in 2014, 346 in 2013, 306 in 2012, 285 in 2011, 295 in 2010 and 207 in 2009.
- 5,061 patients are being followed post-transplant.
People Will Die Waiting For Transplants
78% of the 4,300 Canadians on the waiting list for an organ transplant 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.