2013 was a banner year for organ donations within B.C., surpassing the previous year’s already impressive quantity by over 40 transplants. The 346 transplants within the calendar year saw organ waitlists shrink and patient satisfaction grow—a feat attributable to many factors.
Most notably, transplant centres have recently been granted the capacity to fast track living donor assessments—a gift wrought by technological advance and greater overall public awareness of the options available to organ donors. Also, participation at national level, programs with Federal Canadian Blood Services, enabled medical professionals to connect matching donors with recipients on a national level.
Out of every one million Canadian residents, 28 donated an organ last year. But that only accounts for donors that are still alive, as 14.5 out of every one million deceased citizens also donated a functioning organ. While the latter statistic is on par with the national average, the former exceeds the median among all provinces by a substantial margin.
“The record numbers are great—and we have more work to do,” said Peggy John, communications manager for B.C. Transplant, in an email. “More than 85 per cent of British Columbians support organ donation, but only 19 per cent have registered their decision.”
These numbers may appear low to some; after all, huge segments of the population donate blood on a regular basis. Those involved in organ donation question why such a small fraction of the population each year (less than .00003 per cent) is able to donate. One answer speaks to the necessary sophistication of these operations, as doctors have less than 10 hours to preserve a lung, for example, before the organ begins to deteriorate due to a lack of blood containing nutrients and oxygen.
The number of kidney transplants, which was the most common procedure last year, saw a considerable increase from 2012, as over 40 procedures were successfully executed. Following that was the frequency of heart transplants. At 23 operations, the risky procedure boasted a 31 per cent provincial increase in volume from 2012.
The institution responsible for administering the heaviest bulk of these synthetic blessings was Victoria General Hospital’s Transplant Centre. Performing over 199 transplants last year, Victoria General Hospital is one of only three locations registered in the B.C. Transplant Agency. The others—St. Paul’s Transplant Centre and the B.C. Children’s Hospital—performed 140 and 7 operations, respectively.
“Organ donation isn’t something people think about until it touches them in some way,” said John. “Stats show you are more likely to need a transplant in your lifetime than you are to become an organ donor. Register with your Care Card number at transplant.bc.ca—it takes only minutes, and can save a life.”
B.C. transplant success growth is a beacon of hope for the 495 individuals currently occupying the transplant waitlist in B.C. Helping to spur this hope is a B.C. Children’s Hospital plan to initiate a pediatric heart transplant program, as well as many people registered to become organ donors.