Thursday, March 30, 2006

Have you Heard about the Plea for Legislation that would Presume Us All As Organ Doners, Unless Otherwise Specified?

I have a very sentimental place in my heart for Transplant Patients. I was privileged to become a Support Person for a friend who became a double lung transplant recipient.
I was miffed at a local who wrote that we should get more information about whether transplants work well enough and what is just wasted, so I wrote a letter to the Editor of our local Paper, the Era Banner. Unfortunately the Editor butchered my article, and changed the whole context. So I am publishing the WHOLE piece here.
I would love your comments:

How Easy is it to Become An Unfortunate Transplant Candidate? Is the Question We Must Ask Ourselves.

Imagine you are in the car being driven to your daily appointment at Toronto General Hospital. Your family member driver, is now unemployed because you are too sick and need 24 hour assistance. You hear on the radio that a young person has been shot in the head, and may not live. You go to the hospital and wait for your appointment while sitting in your wheel chair cuz you can no longer walk. You sit with your "transplant candidate friends" you have made over these past months you have been waiting for transplant. The atmosphere is somber, yet there is a buzz of guilt ridden conversation.

Why? Because someone was a victim that day, and it might mean that 8 people of the group of transplant candidates may get a life-saving transplant.
From my first-hand knowledge I will tell you now that probably none of those 8 people got the transplants they needed to live because there was no consent given.
Of course as the average Joe Citizen we shouldn't have to worry about other people's misfortune. We can think of ourselves and the value of our lives TODAY. Right? Who cares if every organ harvested has a purpose, whether it is in transplant or new research into infectious disease, or vaccines against AIDS, or new cancer treatments that only go to the cancer cells and don't hurt healthy tissue....Who Cares? Right?

You should!

What you don't ask yourself is how quickly can my life change, so I end up a transplant candidate?

A healthy 30 something male or female can become a candidate over night.
A Child can become a candidate over night.
A Senior can become a candidate over night.
How do people's organs become so degenerated, (the medical term is Necrotic) that you turn from active, productive, citizen to a patient candidate in a flash?
Allergic reaction to medication, Juvenile Diabetes, Auto Immune Disease, Cystic Fibrosis, Arthritis, Accident, Work in a mine, or a Poultry Farm, be Exposed to Pesticides, or Work in Demolition, or get the Flu.... are only a few things that can change a person's life and make them a candidate.
Can you imagine going on your 10K run and having no idea that an infectious bacteria that has bred on the exhaust of the vehicle idling beside you as you breathe in has now entered your lungs, and within 12hrs your lungs will no longer be able to function? And your only hope is a transplant?

Your event can be as simple as that.

In 2004 I sat with over a hundred transplant candidates and their family support people (I was a support person) to hear some sad statistics. In 2003, in Canada, there-and-about 550 patients were transplanted in the Heart/Lung division alone. But there-and-about were 2600 patients on that list awaiting transplant.
Remember you only get on the list if your organ in question is Necrotic (which means dead or quickly dying tissue). This means that all candidates are in a hopeless situation. So you do the math and figure out how many lives were at risk of having no transplant for them in time.
Patients are waiting up to 2 yrs for a transplant. Once they are on the list their life and their families lives are put on hold in hope a transplant will take place before a patient is too far gone to get one.

If a patient who receives a transplant lives even an extra year, or month, or week, it is one MORE moment they would live and there is no price that can be put on THAT quality of life.

The transplantees stories are fulfilling. Transplantees have survival statistics greater than the medical community could have ever expected!
And the amazing side-bar to this is the research in micro pathology, and technology, new successful cure chemotherapy treatment for certain lymphoma, and screening for disease that has been found to help us all, as a result of transplant research and needs.

There is no question we should all consider legislation that would Presume We Are All Organ Donators, Unless Otherwise Specified.

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