The statistics are well-known, especially to Canadians waiting for a transplant: there are 4,585 Canadians on the list, and, in 2016, 260 Canadians died while waiting. “It is unacceptable that people are dying as they wait on a list – especially when research tells us 90% of Canadians support organ donation,” says Joyce Van Deurzen, Executive Director, Kidney Foundation of Canada (Southern Alberta). “Today, we are proud to formally launch our More Transplants campaign across Alberta to raise the profile of organ donation on behalf of those who are waiting.”
“Our goal for this campaign is to engage as many patients as we can. We invite Albertans to visit our new website, moretransplants.ca, register your intent to donate, and join us in calling for more donations and more transplants,” says Flavia Robles, Executive Director, Kidney Foundation of Canada (Northern Alberta). “If you want to be an organ donor, please sit down at the supper table tonight and talk with your family. This is even more important than registering your intent to donate.”
Eleanor Hollenbeck is one of those people who is waiting. Diagnosed with kidney disease when she was 11 years old, Hollenbeck received a kidney from her father when she was 13. That kidney lasted just under 3 years, failing in 1985. She spent the next decade on dialysis until she received a kidney from a deceased donor in 1995. That kidney failed in 2010, and forced Hollenbeck back onto dialysis. “Although I am only 47 years old, my body feels like I am 94,” she says. “I have refused to allow my illness to hold me back until now, but this year my health has been deteriorating. It takes all of my energy to get ready for my workday, and when I get home, I am exhausted,” she says.
Hollenbeck’s two kidney transplants mean she has 100% antibodies, making it difficult to find a donor who will match. “I am on three lists because my chances are so slim. Finding a matching donor would be like winning the lottery,” she says. “But being on those lists is a lifeline of hope for me, and my husband.”
National statistics show there were 2,835 transplant procedures performed in 2016. “But we still have more than 4,500 people waiting for a transplant,” says Van Deurzen. “Our goal is that one day soon, everyone who needs a transplant will get one.” Hollenbeck agrees, wondering “when so many Canadians support organ donation, why are there so few transplants?”
Advocating for organ donation has led the Kidney Foundation to break new ground. Starting in the fall of 2017, thousands of Canadians from Victoria to Brandon have been attending a series of special hockey games focused on organ donation. The Kidney Foundation of Canada’s western branches have partnered with the Cherry family, the Western Hockey League, and RE/MAX on a series of 17 games.
This is a cause close to the Cherry family as Don Cherry’s son, Tim, received a kidney from his sister Cindy. The series – RE/MAX presents – WHL Suits Up with Don Cherry to Promote Organ Donation – includes organ donors and recipients dropping the puck. Each WHL Club has also selected unique Don Cherry-themed jerseys worn by the players, and auctioned off to fans with 100 per cent of the proceeds going to local chapters of the Kidney Foundation.
The call to action at the games: talk with your family about your wishes, and register your intent to donate. Upcoming games include: Edmonton Oil Kings and Kamloops Blazers on March 2, Medicine Hat Tigers, Swift Current Broncos and Prince George Cougars on March 3, Victoria Royals on March 9, as well as the Red Deer Rebels, Saskatoon Blades and Kelowna Rockets on March 10. Visit CanadaDonates.ca for details.