Organ Donation Campaign Coming to U of G Thursday

March 24, 2010 - Campus Bulletin

University of Guelph students have joined forces with students from three local high schools — Lourdes, Bishop Macdonell and Centennial — and are leading a new social movement promoting organ and tissue donation.

It's part of the RecycleMe campaign launched in the spring by the Trillium Gift of Life Network to raise awareness about the critical need for organ and tissue donors. The students will be in the University Centre Thursday from 10 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. urging people to consider the ultimate act of recycling.

There will be kiosks set up to allow people to browse the RecycleMe website, as well as handouts and consent forms. People will also have the chance to compete for an iPod Touch by playing a life-sized version of the classic Operation game. At 12:30 p.m., the group IllScarlett performs in Peter Clark Hall. Admission is free, but attendees must be wearing a RecycleMe T-shirt.

As part of the event, the students have recruited 1,000 people from the schools and the community to wear “RecycleMe” T-shirts on Thursday. They were also asked to sign a pledge that they will speak to 10 people about organ and tissue donation and join the movement on the website.

Some of the volunteers with U of G ties taking part Thursday include:

U of G student Bree Cordick, who received a double-lung transplant last August as a result of a long battle with bronchiectasis, an incurable condition that develops due to repeated infections and causes the airways to become inflamed and produce excess mucous; U of G graduate Heather Bishop, who received a heart transplant in 2001 after being diagnosed with hypertrophic cardiomyopathy; and Claire Alexander, special projects manager in the U of G president’s office, who lost her four-year-old son unexpectedly from surgery complications eight years ago and donated his organs.

“Every three days, someone dies waiting for an organ transplant, and it doesn’t have to be that way,” Alexander says. “Organ donation simply isn’t on the radar for many people. For most, it’s not that they won’t do it — they just don’t want to think about it or talk about it. Young people, although they tend to think of themselves as invincible, seem to be more willing to talk about it openly and frankly. That’s what this campaign is about — educating people about the facts so that they can make an informed decision.”

A single donor can save up to eight lives, she added. In Ontario, people who wish to donate their organs should register their consent with the Ministry of Health. Signing a donor card is not always enough. People can register their consent when they renew or apply for their OHIP card or by filling out a consent form and mailing it to the ministry. Consent forms are available for download online. The information is then kept on a ministry database that is available to doctors 24/7.

Last year, almost 700 lives were saved because of 218 organ donations, an increase of 17 per cent from 2008. “This surge in donations can be attributed to the launch of outreach campaigns like this one,” Alexander said. “But there are still 1,600 people in Ontario who are waiting for a transplant. These students are bringing this issue to the consciousness of 10,000 people or more. I am very proud to be a part of a community effort to launch such a significant campaign."

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