This past week, my mom, my niece, my grandpa, and my aunt attended a “Celebration of Life” ceremony held by the Trillium Gift of Life Network 1 in honour of those who have been organ and tissue donors. As you know, when my Dad passed away last year, his eyes were donated and two people received sight-restoring surgeries because of his donation 2. The Celebration of Life ceremony was a way to thank the donor families and to share the effect that their donations have on the lives of the recipients3. There was a speech by a woman who received a heart transplant and another by the mother of a three year old girl who received a liver transplant when she was just a baby. Both of these people are alive today because caring people decided to donate their organs and made sure that their families knew that they wanted to donate.
When my dad died and we received the phone call from the Trillium Gift of Life Network asking if we would be willing to donate his eyes, we knew immediately what to do. My dad had told us long ago that if he were ever in the situation where he could be an organ donor, he would want to be one. We even had his driver’s license card where he’d signed the organ donor card4. And we were so grateful that in that horrible moment, we didn’t have to wonder what Dad would have wanted to do or try to make the decision on our own. The decision was made by my dad and we were merely carrying out his wishes on his behalf, since he couldn’t do it himself. It gave us solace to be able to do for him what he let us know he wanted done and to this day it comforts me to know that his corneas are out there, somewhere, helping someone see the beautiful world around them. Maybe they are seeing their kids or grandkids, or their partner or parents or friends, or maybe they are watching the sunset or rise, or maybe they are watching the Leafs play the Habs. Whatever they are watching, they are making someone’s life significantly better and I’m sure that they are thankful for that donation every single day.
So what I want to say to you all is this: think about whether you’d want to be an organ donor and make that wish known. I know that not everyone is comfortable with the idea and if that’s the case for you, let your loved ones know so that they don’t have to guess, should you ever be in that situation. And if you are willing to be a donor, please register with your provincial transplant organization (see below) and let your loved ones know your wishes. Then, should the situation arise where you could be an organ or tissue donor, your family doesn’t have to wonder what you would have wanted to happen and your tissues and/or organs can go on to help improve or save a life.
Two provinces have online registration systems for you to register your wish to be an organ donor:
For information on registering as a potential donor in other provinces, check out: Life: Pass It On.
- The Trillium Gift of Life Network is the agency that coordinates organ and tissues donations in Ontario. [↩]
- Because my dad had cancer, none of his other organs could be donated, but we were thankful that his eyes could be used to help people in need. [↩]
- You don’t actually get to know who the specific recipient of your loved one’s organs or tissues were, but you get to hear from recipients about how they are alive today and able to function thanks to the donation they received. [↩]
- Which is how they used to track who wanted to be an organ donor in Ontario. Now there is an online system where you sign up. [↩]