Awareness of organ donation literally vital

As the fourth annual Green Shirt Day approaches, people in Medicine Hat and across the country are starting conversations about organ donation in hopes of recruiting new donors and in recognition of those who have made a Don.

Green Shirt Day began in 2019 in honor of Logan Boulet, one of 29 passengers injured in the 2018 Humboldt Broncos bus crash, and one of 16 who died. A registered organ donor, Boulet’s legacy lived on in six others after his death and inspired approximately 150,000 Canadians to become organ donors.

Since then, the number of new registered organ donors has plateaued, which Green Shirt Day organizers hope will increase as awareness increases.

“Although many people believe that organ donation is meaningful and has an impact, they still haven’t registered,” Jan Clemis, provincial director of the Canadian Association of Transplantation, told The News. “Here in Alberta, we are second (last) in organ donation registrations across Canada.

“So many people die on the waiting list every year and it’s just because of the lack of donors. When people have to wait a long time, their health sometimes deteriorates, so even if they were eligible to receive a kidney or lungs three years ago, by the time those three years have passed, they may not be in the same physical condition.

Although studies show that approximately 90% of Canadians agree with organ donation, less than 35% are registered donors.

“Our goal across Canada for 2022 is to register 100,000 new donors,” Clemis said. “It can be done on your phone or laptop. It’s an easy process.

Beyond signing up new donors, Clemis hopes Green Shirt Day will simply raise awareness about organ donation. Several local institutions have scheduled learning opportunities for April 7, including the Medicine Hat Public School Division.

“We’re going to show a video that Logan Boulet’s mom had been in,” Heather McCaig, a Crescent Heights High School teacher and MHPSD Green Shirt Day organizer, told The News. “We are going to ask all the teachers to show it to all the students in the school. Then, students will have a survey to complete and they will be entered into a draw to win plush organs.

The school’s leadership students have also partnered with Canadian Blood Services to organize an information table where students can learn more about organ donation.

Elementary school students across the division will also participate by creating cards for those on the organ transplant list, as well as those recovering from transplants.

McCaig hopes the day will spark discussion among students and families.

“This is an extremely important discussion,” McCaig said. “It’s a tough subject, but it’s something families need to know what their loved one’s wishes are if anything happens.”

Clemis also believes that families should discuss organ donation, so that each individual is clear about what should happen if a family member dies.

“Most people don’t realize, even if you sign your donor card, if you haven’t expressed those wishes to your family, they may not know it and may not accept the donation of organs, if any. It’s so important for us to have this conversation. she says.

Clemis knows the importance of such conversations because her family has been directly affected by organ donation. She herself is an organ recipient, as is her husband Kelly Clemis, who died in 2017.

“It’s so hard to express in words to someone who hasn’t had a transplant the powerful meaning of a second chance,” she says.

In honor of Kelly and other local transplant recipients, Medicine Hat Mayor Linnsie Clark will present a Green Shirt Day proclamation on April 7. That evening, the Saami tipi will be lit green to mark the day.

Clemis is grateful for the recognition.

“It puts it front and center and says the city, the mayor, the council are all behind organ donation,” she said. “Any show or display or medium, we’re excited to see that happen.”

Anyone wishing to show their support for organ donation is encouraged to wear green on April 7. You can find more information about Green Shirt Day online at greenshirtday.ca.

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