Five thousand people are alive today because of organ transplants

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A 31-year-old Mission man is grateful for another chance at life after receiving a kidney transplant last month from a living donor, making him the 5,000th person in British Columbia alive today because of an organ transplant.

“The success of organ transplant is a transformative feat of expertise, coordination and caring through the province, in every health authority,” said Adrian Dix, Minister of Health. “Even though we have 28 % of British Columbians registered in the Organ Donor Registry, we still have over 700 British Columbians waiting for an organ transplant. In 2018, 27 people died waiting. We need more people to register, to help save those who are waiting.”

Geoffrey Dunsire received a kidney from Debi Pearce, a 64-year-old realtor from Maple Ridge, who decided to step forward as a potential donor after meeting Dunsire and his family while finding them a new home. This was Dunsire’s second organ transplant. He received an initial liver transplant six years ago at Vancouver General Hospital but was so ill his kidney was damaged as well. Dunsire had been on dialysis for four years before his kidney transplant last month. Both Dunsire and Pearce are recovering well.

“There are literally no words to express how grateful I am to Debi for giving me the ‘gift of life’,” said Dunsire. “Thanks to her, I am ready to believe and hope for my future.”

“Donating a kidney has changed my life in so many ways,” said Pearce, the kidney donor. “I feel empowered, positive and so grateful to be able to help give Geoff back his ‘normal’ life again.”

Today’s 5,000th transplant milestone is a testament to the experience, knowledge and expertise of all of the health professionals who are involved in organ donation and transplant, and the dedication of British Columbians who choose to donate.

In the early days of transplant, as many as 80% of transplant recipients had organ rejection and nearly half of all transplant recipients lost their transplanted organs. Due to medical advances and increased support both before and after surgery, it is becoming increasingly common to see recipients live upwards of 20 years after transplant.

This milestone comes as BC Transplant celebrates 50 years of organ donation and transplant and demonstrates how far patient care has advanced in this province. Today’s announcement was made possible by the thousands of living and deceased donors and their families who have chosen to give the gift of life.

The Provincial Organ Donor Registry was created to legally record a person’s decision regarding organ donation. The information in the registry can be accessed by BC Transplant at the time donation is considered.

Organ donation is considered only after all lifesaving efforts have been exhausted and it is certain that a person will not survive. Donor registration record is confidential, and only accessible by the donation team at BC Transplant.

Quotes:

Dr. Jagbir Gill, transplant nephrologist, St. Paul’s Hospital —

“Scientific advances, along with new rules to expand living kidney donation, have improved outcomes for both the donor and the recipient. These measures and of course, the generosity of people like Debi Pearce, have made B.C. a leader in transplantation medicine. We can proudly say B.C. has among the highest rates of living kidney donation in Canada and is an international leader in this area.”

Dr. Maureen O’Donnell, executive vice-president clinical policy, planning and partnership, Provincial Health Services Authority (PHSA) —

“Donors are our heroes and this incredible milestone is truly their legacy of the incredible gift of life. Everyone at PHSA and BC Transplant is honoured to be part of all these remarkable journeys and we look forward to celebrating many more milestones to come.”

Quick Facts:

  • As of July 1, 2019, more than 3,400 kidney transplant patients are currently monitored in B.C.
  • There are more than 850 liver transplant patients, 300 heart transplant patients and 275 lung transplant patients monitored in B.C.
  • Parents can register children — they will need to sign the registration form for any child under 19 years of age.
  • Only 1% of people in B.C. die in a way that would permit them to be an organ donor.
  • People are more likely to need a transplant than they are to become an organ donor.
  • The following organs can be donated — heart, kidneys, liver, lungs, pancreas and pancreas islet.