502 lives saved in 2018 by the gift of organ donation – a new BC record

Adrian Dix
Photo by Chandra Bodalia

THANKS to the incredible gift of organ donation, 502 British Columbians received a transplant in 2018, setting a new record for the total number of transplants in a calendar year.

With 122 deceased donors in 2018, BC exceeded by one its record pace of 2017. This translates into a deceased donor rate of 24.9 per million people, an increase of 71 per cent compared to five years ago.

“I’m proud to celebrate the selfless act of donation from so many British Columbians,” said Health Minister Adrian Dix. “This record number of transplants is a testament to the spirit of our residents, who gave the greatest gift of all last year—the chance at a new life for others.”

The level of dedication and expertise to achieve this milestone is remarkable. Health care teams and specialized services across the province, in conjunction with BC Transplant’s Organ Donation and Hospital Development Team, have worked hard to maintain BC’s position as one of the national leaders for organ donation and transplantation.

“It takes an incredible team effort to make organ donation happen,” says Dr. Sean Keenan, BC Transplant’s Medical Director of Organ Donation Services. “Once a family selflessly consents to organ donation on behalf of their loved one, upwards of a hundred people are initially involved for each organ donor and transplant recipient.”

A new kidney transplant milestone was also reached last year with 339 transplants. A large part of that is due to BC’s continued focus on living kidney donation – 100 living donors in 2018 – in combination with a coordinated shift towards pre-emptive kidney transplants before a patient needs dialysis.

Corey Nislow was one of those living kidney donors. The UBC professor donated to a complete stranger in 2018. Four months later, he ran a marathon.

“Donating a kidney has had a very positive impact on my quality of life, from an emotional point of view,” says Corey. “It’s frankly something I am very proud to have done, it makes me feel good.”

There were also 28 heart transplants in 2018 (tying the record set in 2016), 50 lung transplants and 77 liver transplants.

“I am so grateful for the generosity of not one, but two families who have had the strength to say yes to organ donation in the midst of tragedy,” says Katie Welsh. She was Canada’s first pediatric heart-transplant recipient in 1987, and underwent her second heart transplant at St. Paul’s Hospital last year. “I am a mom, wife, daughter, sister and friend because of them.”

While there are a number of important factors driving the continued growth of organ donation and transplantation in BC, hospital-based critical care teams play a key role by identifying potential organ donors. There were 512 hospital referrals to the 24/7 BC Transplant clinical referral line in 2018, nearly triple the numbers from five years ago. This demonstrates the shift in our culture to fully support organ donation as a normal end-of-life option.

At the same time, the expansion of donation after circulatory death (DCD) has also been significant. More than a third of deceased donors last year were DCD, with 13 participating hospital sites around the province.

There are currently more than 1.35 million British Columbians who have registered their wishes to be an organ donor. As of January 1, 2019, 669 people are still waiting for an organ transplant in BC, and the need remains strong. British Columbians are encouraged to take action and register their own decision about organ donation and share their wishes with family. This is what Logan Boulet did and now his legacy lives on in others. April 7, 2019 will mark one year since the Humboldt Broncos bus crash tragedy and commemorate Logan’s gift of organ donation that saved the lives of six people.

For more information, visit transplant.bc.ca.


Video clips: 

Dr. Landsberg https://youtu.be/xSqWnWXZn3c,

Dr. Keenan https://youtu.be/nfAZJ5tgwUI,

living donor Corey Nislow https://youtu.be/j_c5p_VdRiY