Organ donation saves lives

Those giving blood last week at the Community Centre got to hear from transplant recipients

Are you signed up to be an organ donor? If you’re not sure, head to transplant.bc.ca with your Personal Health Number ready and find out.

He may be a bit biased, but Robbie Thompson thinks everyone should sign up to be an organ donor.

Thompson is on his third heart. He was born with a condition called idiopathic dilated cardiomyopathy.

“Basically, the left side of my heart was just way too massive,” Thompson says, sitting at the BC Transplant booth at the Campbell River Community Centre last week in recognition of National Organ and Tissue Donation Awareness Week.

Thompson got his first trasnsplant when he was only five months old.

“That one worked pretty well for a few years,” he says, “but what can happen, for a variety of reasons, organs can reject, and in my case, something went wrong with my coronary artery – we don’t know what – and I required another heart when I was about four years old.”

That one has been going strong ever since, however.

So strong, in fact, Thompson won a gold medal in cycling at the 2014 Canadian Transplant Games.

These days, Thompson is concentrating on his schooling, attending North Island College and thinking about getting into filmmaking.

But he goes out of his way to support the cause of raising awareness and signing people up to become organ donors every chance he gets.

Thompson got to the top of the transplant list – twice – but says not everyone is so fortunate, and he wants to do his part to speed up the time it takes to move up that waiting list by getting more donors.

“With the event this week, I couldn’t really just lie on my butt and do nothing,” he says. “I have two sets of donor families to honour.”

Over 600 families in B.C. are currently waiting for transplants for their loved ones.

Earlier this year, ICBC made it easier to register to become a donor by allowing people to register at ICBC offices when they renew their insurance, saying that while 51 per cent of British Columbians think they have registered, only 21 per cent actually have.

That’s because the system of registering has changed and those who registered years ago and got a sticker on their driver’s licence may need to re-register in order to make their wishes known.

That 21 per cent number is even more worrying when you consider that 95 per cent of British Columbians support organ donation as an idea.

Some, Thompson says, don’t sign up because they don’t think their organs can be used, for whatever reason.

“On occasion, even cancer patients or people who smoke, their organs might not be 100 per cent ideal or not okay for actual transplant but they could still be used for related research, and that helps, too,” Thompson says.

Registering to be an organ donor is easy.

You can see if you are registered by going to transplant.bc.ca and clicking a few buttons.

You just need to have your BC Personal Health Number at the ready.

And by registering as an organ donor, you know you’re making a positive difference in the world, Thompson says, as each registered donor can save up to eight lives.