The power of or­gan do­na­tion

Sud­bury women de­scribe the power of or­gan do­na­tion

The Sudbury Star - - FRONT PAGE - HAROLD CARMICHAEL [email protected]­media.com Twit­ter: @HaroldCarmichae

When Geor­gette De­sormeaux was suf­fer­ing from an en­larged heart three times its nor­mal size, she had to move to Ot­tawa and re­side at the Ot­tawa Heart In­sti­tute.

But thanks to a man who signed his or­gan donor card, De­sormeaux re­ceived a new heart on Oct. 15, 1991, and went on to live some 25 years be­fore fall­ing vic­tim to pneu­mo­nia two years ago, just days shy of her 69th birth­day.

Her grand­daugh­ters — Danika and Josee-Anne Car­riere — have never for­got­ten the man’s gift, de­cid­ing to get in­volved in the Ir­ish Her­itage Club’s an­nual 1 Saves 8 Michael O’Reilly Or­gan Donor Aware­ness Cam­paign. The 2019 ver­sion kicked off Thurs­day at Tom Davies Square.

“Af­ter years on the wait­ing list, she fi­nally got the do­na­tion that changed her life,” Dan­ica told the more than 20 peo­ple at­tend­ing the press con­fer­ence. “Hav­ing a new heart meant ev­ery­thing. She could watch her chil­dren bloom and wit­ness the birth of her grand­chil­dren ... Be­cause of some­one’s tak­ing the time to sign up as an or­gan donor, she was able to go on liv­ing.”

Dan­ica also noted that a heart valve from her grand­mother’s en­larged heart went to a young woman, help­ing to save that woman’s life.

In an in­ter­view, the sis­ters said the an­nual or­gan donor aware­ness cam­paign has shifted away from the spring aware­ness walk to staffing events such as the An­der­son Farm Fall Fair and talk­ing to peo­ple one-on-one.

Josee-Anne said she and her sis­ter are find­ing they have to tackle myths peo­ple grew up with con­cern­ing or­gan do­na­tion and ex­plain­ing how a per­son can make their wishes known about the is­sue.

Josee-Anne said she had a high school friend who lost her fa­ther and the de­ci­sion whether to do­nate his or­gans came down to her. The friend did al­low that to hap­pen and ended up be­ing con­tacted by the peo­ple who ben­e­fited from her fa­ther’s or­gans.

“It made her warm know­ing the de­ci­sion she made al­lowed others to live through or­gan do­na­tion,” said Josee-Anne.

In­ter­est­ing facts that came out of the press con­fer­ence in­cluded that Greater Sud­bury ranks se­cond out of 440 On­tario com­mu­ni­ties with an or­gan donor sign-up rate of 56 per cent, right be­hind North Bay-Nipiss­ing, which has a 57 per cent rate.

The On­tario or­gan donor signup av­er­age, mean­while, is 34 per cent, with the fig­ures for some ma­jor cities such as Toronto and Wind­sor even lower at 24 and 30 per cent re­spec­tively.

Mel O’Reilly, the last sur­viv­ing found­ing member of the Ir­ish Her­itage Club of Sud­bury that was es­tab­lished in May 1959, said the club’s de­ci­sion to raise aware­ness about the need for or­gan do­na­tion stemmed from the death of his son, Michael, 20 years ago while wait­ing for a dou­ble lung trans­plant due to cys­tic fi­bro­sis. Mel noted that his son died at the age of 37 af­ter hav­ing been on a wait­ing list for 18 months.

“My wife Betty and I de­cided we should do some­thing to pro­mote or­gan donor aware­ness in the City of Sud­bury,” he said. “We ap­proached the Ir­ish Her­itage Club and they agreed to do so.”Mel said that while the City of Greater Sud­bury’s 56 per cent or­gan donor sign-up rate trans­lates into 85,711 peo­ple, he is op­ti­mistic the prov­ince will do like Nova Sco­tia did and make it law that every deceased per­son be con­sid­ered a pos­si­ble or­gan and tis­sue donor un­less they have in­di­cated oth­er­wise.

Mel said there are cur­rently 1,684 On­tar­i­ans wait­ing for new or­gans, the big needs be­ing kidneys, lungs and hearts.

Dr. Mike Hartwick, an as­sis­tant pro­fes­sor in the Depart­ment of Medicine at the Ot­tawa Hospi­tal, who is also a re­gional med­i­cal lead with the On­tario Tril­lium Gift of Life Net­work (which co-or­di­nates or­gan do­na­tion in the prov­ince), said it’s great to sign up to be an or­gan donor, but it’s also im­por­tant to tell your fam­ily mem­bers of your de­ci­sion. That’s be­cause they ul­ti­mately make the fi­nal call about what hap­pens to you in the event of an un­ex­pected death.

“You might be sur­prised to learn you are five times as likely to need a trans­plant than be a donor,” he said. “Sadly, there’s still more than 1,600 peo­ple in our prov­ince in need of a life-sav­ing or­gan trans­plant. Eleven of those peo­ple live here in the Sud­bury area. These peo­ple might be your friends, neigh­bours, col­leagues, even your fam­ily. Every three days in our prov­ince, some­one will die be­cause there are not enough or­gans to meet the need. By in­di­cat­ing con­sent for or­gan do­na­tion, you have the power to save a life.”

Mayor Brian Big­ger, not only signed a procla­ma­tion declar­ing the week of May 14-20 Or­gan Donor Aware­ness Week in the city, but helped to raise a flag with the mes­sage “bead­onor.ca” in the Tom Davies Square court­yard.

“We all know there is more work to be done and there’s no deny­ing the need for or­gan donor aware­ness,” said Big­ger. “We need to reach more peo­ple and get the mes­sage that one or­gan donor can save eight lives and also ben­e­fit 75 others.”

You might be sur­prised to learn you are five times as likely to need a trans­plant than be a donor.

HAROLD CARMICHAEL

Sis­ters Danika, left, and Josee-Anne Car­riere spoke about the need for donor or­gans at a press con­fer­ence at Tom Davies Square Tues­day. The sis­ters´ late grand­mother, Geor­gette De­sormeaux, lived 25 years af­ter re­ceiv­ing a donor heart.

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