ARE YOU AN ORGAN DONOR? Now that I got your attention…..please read


This is not a post to lecture anyone about whether or not you should be a registered organ donor but a post about raising awareness about the need for organ donation, my new career, my latest trip to Toronto to visit Trillium Gift for Life Network and see first hand how Hospital Coordinators perform their role and my visit to Toronto in February. Also, to let you in on how complicated organizing the retrieval and getting organs to the recipients really is in real life. Many people believe once a family consents to organ donation there are these people who show up with coolers to just take the organs. There is wayyyyyyyy more to this!

I won’t bore you with stats either but organs save many lives and long wait lists speak volumes. This is not just for the motorcyclist out there, I hope everyone will read through this post.

****If you take anything away from this post I hope it’s this: Talk about what you would want if something were to happen to you. Meeting organ donation criteria is very difficult even if you want to be a donor but what is even more difficult is watching families struggle with the question, “would he/she want to be a donor?” If you are not registered at least have the conversation with a loved one what your wishes would be in a time when you can not advocate for yourself. I have been with too many families and friends of patients who just did not know the answer because end of life discussions never occurred and by the time they meet someone like me it is too late.****

Let someone know! Can’t hurt to have your last wish become a life saving one.

To learn more about how to register or to become a donor in your area Google it or for BC go to the BC Transplant Home Page or Click here for BC Online Registration

We are working on a new and improved site or in Ontario head to Trillium Gift of Life Network  or  Click Here for Ontario Online Registration

BC Transplant Background Information

BC Transplant (BCT), established in 1986, directs, delivers or contracts for all organ transplant services across BC.

It is funded principally through the BC Ministry of Health Services, and is an agency of the Provincial Health Services Authority. BC Transplant Foundation is an officially recognized charitable organization.

BCT contracts for inpatient and outpatient transplant services from three transplant hospitals and operates seven regional clinics throughout BC for outpatient care.

The transplant centres include:

  • Vancouver General Hospital,
  • St. Paul’s Hospital and,
  • BC’s Children’s Hospital.

The 7 regional clinics include:

  • Victoria’s Royal Jubilee Hospital,
  • Kamloops’ Royal Inland Hospital,
  • Kelowna General Hospital,
  • Penticton Regional Hospital,
  • Prince George Regional Hospital,
  • Trail’s Kootenay Boundary Regional Hospital
  • Fraser Valley Transplant Clinic in Surrey.


BCT Philosophy

BC Transplant believes that the health-restoring benefits of organ transplant services should be available to those individuals who meet the suitability and eligibility criteria for transplantation in British Columbia.

BCT Vision

All British Columbians eligible for a transplant will receive one.

BCT Mission

With compassion, collaboration and innovation, we will save lives and offer hope through organ donation, transplantation and research.

Contact Us

If you would like more information about BC Transplant and/or its research activities, or would like to make a donation to the Foundation please write, fax or call:

BC Transplant
3rd Floor, West Tower
555 West 12th Ave
Vancouver, BC
V5Z 3X7

Tel: 604-877-2240
Toll free: 1-800-663-6189
Fax: 604-877-2111
Email: Webmaster

Now back to my story! ;-)

My colleague Sandi and I were off bright and early on Feb 5th to fly out to Toronto for 8 days.

Goal was for the two of us to see how Trillium Gift of Life Network (TGLN) runs the Hospital Organ Donation Coordinators roles in their hospitals. That is what I am, or supposed to eventually be is a Hospital Organ Donation Coordinator at a trauma hospital not far from my house. TGLN has had these roles for many years now and we were to shadow their coordinators for the week, be on call, take on cases and even take a course on how to manage a neurologically brain-dead patient medically.  In BC we are just implementing coordinators in key facilities. 

Sandi and I are the first two to be hired for the Province.  Our job in a nutshell is to be an in hospital Organ Donation Cooridinator/Resource person for the hospital staff.  Ensure policies and procedures are being implemented and followed and that eventually all patients who are going to die and meet some or all of the organ donation criteria are referred to BC Transplant.  Also, we are responsible for taking referrals ourselves and organizing the medical management of the patient and arranging the actual retrieval of the organs.  Very complicated but that is it in basic terms. 

Our plane was full even at this time in the morning and we flew into a gorgeous sunrise as we headed east.

Sandi my colleague enjoying her early morning flight

Toronto from the air

First view of the CN Tower

I have been to Toronto one time before this trip when I was a teenager and played soccer competitively. Although we did not get to do much sight-seeing while out there I at least got to see some of the city and suburbs while I was working.

Hilton

Sandi did a great job picking out our hotel for the next 8 nights. This Hilton was really nice, the staff were great and decent location.

Heading to Trillium Gift of Life Network (TGLN) on Monday morning to meet the gang and start our learning.

Nice waiting room and conference rooms at their headquarters. Warm greetings and off we went to our orientation. I am excluding pics of really any people just because some are shy. ;-)

In BC we have 2 organ donation teams. The first team receives the referral, assesses the patient for suitability and then begins the long process of gathering the consent from next of kin, medical information, arranging surgeons, OR time, recipients and even transportation of organs when needed. The second team actually goes into the OR to retrieve the organs, gets them ready for transport and ensure they go to the right hospital and recipients. This all takes time, a lot of time but worth it when the patient has taken the time to register as a donor them-self or it is the family who believe the patient would want to be a donor. That is what this is all about….advocating for patients and their families as well as saving many lives.

The above picture and the next few are all the supplies, the bags and some of the equipment that the OR team needs to bring with them in order to ensure all organs are properly stored.

These pictures are from the TGLN supply room and in BC we have a similar set up.

Sandi looking like Vanna White! LOL

Organ donation teams are responsible for bringing all supplies and equipment into hospitals and we use our own budgets to provide all staff with what they will need to make the retrieval a success. Most hospitals or programs have their own surgeons and OR nurses.  BC Transplant has staff who can go into the OR to assist the docs.  Sometimes we have to arrange for teams to come from far away to do their own retrievals as well.  Organization is key.

Everything has to stay sterile

Everything needs to be locked and secured

The TGLN call centre. I have never been to BC’s call centre yet but this is where it all begins. Healthcare workers call in a potential donor. In Ontario this call centre also assists with organ allocation where in BC myself as well as my colleagues are responsible for allocation as well as medically managing an organ donor patient along with the Intensive Care medical team. For me, being a social worker and not a nurse or medically trained professional means I have a lot to learn. I have 13 years critical care experience but now I really need to learn how to utilize the knowledge I have gained over the years and put it into practice. We do not actually do any hands on work, we assist medical teams with guidelines and support.

The weather almost all week was beautiful for Toronto. Sunny skies not too cold. We were lucky for the most part until the weekend hit.

Most important, coffee break during our sit down orientation to TGLN

After spending all day in a classroom situation my colleagues Laszlo and Sandi decided to go out for dinner. Just a quick background about my taste in foods. I am a New Yorker and one would think I would have an adventurous palate. That is so not the case. As for Sandi and Laszlo they most likely would try anything once. We went to Guu a Japanese restaurant somewhere in Toronto. I could not find a thing I could eat so after my colleagues gorged themselves on tongue, tuna, cheek etc….I left starving and in search of a quesadilla. I know I am very boring but it is what it is. I would lose a lot of weight in a third world country for sure. See video below..I am so immature! ;-)

Tongue UGH!

Eaton Centre

Next night we went to Eaton Centre for window shopping or rather Sandi shopping. I just watched. LOL

Trauma Centre in Toronto

From Tuesday through Thursday I was on a whirlwind tour of the area hospitals following around the coordinators and learning what they do on a daily basis. All the hospitals I visited are in the Greater Toronto Area. One thing I noticed right away is that Ontario rents their main level space out to retail stores like Tim Horton’s, Tasty Foods, Medical Supply stores, pharmacies etc. Something I have always said we need to do way more in BC. Capitalize on private companies to subsidize the public health care system by charging lofty rents. St. Paul’s Hospital where I used to work in Vancouver is an historic building, perfect for retail instead of our emergency department. Relocate the ED department and rent out the Burrard building….what a concept!

Great day with coordinator #1 from TGLN and after getting the tour and inside scoop I was back in a cab heading to downtown Toronto. A routine I did for the next 3 days. I am over cabs. ;-)

Headed out for dinner that night to Bannock. Great food, totally beat my Japanese experience but hey that is just me. Boring palate and all but at least I was full after we ate.

City Hall

Walked around Dundas Square. Like a mini Times Square.

Next day off to hospital #2 and coordinator #2. Another brief introduction as to what an Organ Donation Coordinator does on a daily basis. What I am thinking by this point is although I have a job description depending on the coordinators personality and skill makes or breaks this type of job. I truly believe it will be all about establishing relationships within a hospital staff and units as well as how knowledgeable I come across. Time will tell.

Trillium Health Centre

Lot’s of renovations going on at many of the hospitals I went too.

New buildings and even fancy comfy ICU chairs….

Light Rail system in TO

Public transit seems to be much more convenient in TO than Vancouver. Many modes to choose from and they run all day and night.

Third hospital I went to visit as far as the orientation went. Nice hospital, nice coordinator and overall great introduction to my new role. I also got to visit Sick Kids Hospital but unfortunately for a patient it was because I was on a case. Fortunate for other little kids that perhaps this young person saved some lives the next day.

This is a view from one of the TGLN coordinators condo near downtown. See the blue skies, the view….it was an awesome week and on Saturday and arctic front came in and we got the normal TO weather snow and frigid cold.

On Friday, February 10th, 2012 Sandi and I had the pleasure to sit in on a class all about the brain and medical issues that arise from brain death with Brenda Morgan and other Trillium staff. Thanks to TGLN for hosting Brenda in more ways than one. Brenda Morgan is not only a very knowledgeable nurse but extremely interesting to listen to. This was very beneficial for me to sit in on a lecture about specific medical care and the anatomy of the brain. The more I know the better I will be.

Sick Kids Hospital is a very large and some what new hospital for kids from all over the Province. Without going into too much detail I was on call and went on a case here. Brain death can occur no matter what age you are for any sort of reason. It is difficult not only for the parents of children but for the family of adults just the same. This was the first time I have ever been in a pediatric ICU and I am sure it will not be my last. I worked in an adult ICU for years and although this is a pediatric unit it was not that much different except the patients were smaller.

Pretty amazing inside the kids hospital. Children hospitals get a lot of public support and donations.

Saturday I was called out again to attend to another organ donor at another hospital and this time was able to get into the OR for the retrieval of organs. I did this about a month ago locally where I live for the first time so I sort of knew what to expect. Different surgical team same basic set up. That was a great experience for me once again and the coordinator I was shadowing for both cases was a very experienced and pleasant guy who really knows his stuff.

Getting ready for the OR….

Saturday and Sunday were cold and snowy days. More normal weather for TO than the beautiful week we just had. Worked all day Saturday and was on call on Sunday the day before we left but got a call too late to go out on another case. Sounds morbid I know that TO is really busy with brain deaths and donations but it’s a good thing that the word is getting out there. If I were to die, had either irreversible brain damage or I was brain dead I want to be a donor. Just me and my partner wishes too. You can be a donor if you are not brain dead. Remember hard to meet that criteria in real life hence the long waiting lists. You can also be what is called a DCD. Donation after Cardio-Circulatory Death. In other words so much brain damage that you will never breathe off a machine and never wake up.

If you have any questions please feel free to comment or go ask your healthcare professional like your doctor.

View from my hotel room

So, that’s it….a week in the life of an organ donation coordinator in the making. I have much more to learn to develop myself into this new role. My partner Cheryl has been really supportive because I hate change and keeps saying you will be great when you get out of the extreme learning phase. I think this is a job you will always learn from but in a good way. Patients and families are all different so they keep you on your toes.

I hope this mixed up post has enable some of the readers to have this conversation with family or your friends. Talking about organ donation does not mean you are going to die. I hear that a lot when folks don’t write WILLS. They feel if they talk about death it will happen. Let you wishes be known either by formally registering them on an organ donation site or just speaking the words.

14 thoughts on “ARE YOU AN ORGAN DONOR? Now that I got your attention…..please read

  1. Interesting post, I am listed as an organ doner. I have thought about how I would feel if someone in my family could have thier life saved with an organ. I also hit 10 gallons at the Blood Bank last month. I believe both are good karma for a motorcycle rider.
    Jim

    • Intersting post? Yeah I know deep…but it’s a topic not many talk about….glad to see your comment here and that is a great attitude towards being a donor. I also think about if I need an organ, my partner or anyone I love for that matter…made the decision for me easy….thanks for the comment James and for sharing… ;-)

  2. I’m banned for life even from giving blood. I had a slight touch of leukemia some years ago so I’m not sure I have any salvageable parts they can use.
    Hmmm, maybe you know, am I worth anything as salvage, or am I just scrap? LOL

    • you can still register wherever you live your wishes and if there is a time you ever could be considered a donor the team would get your history and evaluate your situation at the time. Just because you have had a History with leukemia does not automatically rule you out. :-)

  3. Great post, this topic is near and dear to my hart. Or should I say Kidney.
    I’m a living kidney donor, and a registered organ donor.

    Thanks for raising awareness.

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