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Ontario reaches organ donation milestone

Image of Lisa Huhn
Lisa Huhn (R), a former kidney and pancreas transplant patient of UHN’s Multi-Organ Transplant program, photographed in Alaska along with her husband Thomas Aabna. (Courtesy: Lisa Huhn)​

Lisa Huhn was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes at the age of four. The illness eventually took its toll on her kidney and pancreas, and in 1997 - living on kidney dialysis and with a failing pancreas - Lisa received the call from UHN's Multi-Organ Transplant Program in Toronto General Hospital.

A deceased donor was able to provide both her new kidney and new pancreas.

Lisa is one of thousands of Ontarians whose life was saved by organ donation.

Earlier this year, Ontario reached an important milestone: 30 per cent of Ontarians are now registered as organ and tissue donors at end of life. Trillium Gift of Life Network statistics show that in the last year, more than 340,000 Ontarians registered as donors, the highest number recorded in one year. 

"We are celebrating this achievement because we know that registration saves lives," says Ronnie Gavsie, President and CEO, Trillium Gift of Life Network (TGLN), an Ontario Government agency that coordinates and supports organ and tissue donation and transplantation across the province.

"The need for organ donors is still immense"

Lisa says her transplant has improved her quality and outlook of life immensely.

"This transplant has enhanced my life. I live each day to the fullest and with a positive attitude, and this transplant really helped me do that," says Lisa

"This is a major accomplishment and a proud moment for Ontario. It means that more of our patients will receive life-saving transplants," says Dr. Atul Humar, Medical Director of MOTP. "The need for donor organs is still immense, but we are making excellent progress."

UHN's Multi-Organ Transplant Program (MOTP) in Toronto General Hospital (TGH) performs the highest amount of transplants in Canada with over 500 transplants a year. MOTP is also a leader in the assessment and repair of donor organs outside the body before transplantation, with the development of the EX VIVO Perfusion System at UHN.

Since 2012, there has been an unprecedented 28 per cent increase in lung transplants at TGH as a result of this system. TGH's MOTP now performs more than 100 lung transplants a year, making this one of the largest programs in the world.

The impact of transplant success stories

"When families are given proof that an individual is a registered donor, in most cases the family will fulfill their loved one's last wishes. Register online, talk to your family, and give hope to the 1,500 people waiting for a medically urgent transplant," says Ronnie.

Ronnie explains that because many Ontarians have a paper donor card, they mistakenly believe they are registered organ and tissue donors. In fact, donor cards are no longer used because hospital staff couldn't access them easily when they were needed. In order to formally register or check your registration status, visit www.BeADonor.ca.

Lisa says it is critical that everyone is informed about the life-changing result of organ transplants on recipients.

"If more people knew about the very positive outcome of organs donations, this would get people to register as donors. We need to tell more success stories about how lives are changed by transplant and educate the public about the significance of organ donation," explains Lisa.

For more information on organ and tissue donation and transplant, visit The Trillium Gift of Life.​

Register to be an organ and tissue donor online at BeADonor.ca​​

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