A decade after a change in the way organ donations work, many people are still unaware being registered through a driver’s license no longer works.
Marilyn Byfield, a volunteer with BC Transplant, is part of a team that sets up an organ donation registration table at the London drugs in Kelowna every month. The booth has two purposes; to register donors, and also to inform people their driver’s license no longer allows their organs to be donated.
“Our big thrust is to get people to understand it’s not on their driver’s license,” Byfield said. “I would say 60 to 70 percent of the people we sign up here still think it’s on their driver’s license.”
Now, registering is done through health care cards, which makes registering online simple. As a recipient of a liver donation in 2013, Byfield knows firsthand of the need for donors.
“95 percent of the population of BC agrees with organ donation, but only 20 percent are signed up,” she explained. “There are 4.6 million people in the province, and as of November 2nd 959,000 people have registered. It’s an awareness, and people will come in saying they’ve had it on their desk for two years and just haven’t done it.”
As of November 2nd, there had been 363 transplants in BC, with 544 others still waiting for a matching organ. Byfield was able to receive her transplant within three months of needing a new liver, but she noted some people have to wait up to six years for a transplant.
“30 percent of the people that are on the waiting list will die before they get a transplant,” she said. “There are so many issues that have to match. Blood type, tissue match, and a number of different things. Sometimes they get an organ and it doesn’t fit. Timing has a lot to do with it when it’s available. They only operate in Vancouver, so patients have to fly in, they have to fly the organs in, and maybe sometimes someone has donated but it isn’t considered a viable organ.”
The actual odds of donating an organ are relatively low. In all of Canada last year, there were only 962 donors. There were many more recipients than donors, but that is because one body can provide up to eight organs for transplant.
Over 40,000 British Columbian’s have registered themselves as organ donors this year, and Byfield is hopeful that number can continue to steadily climb.
Registering for organ donation can be done online at https://register.transplant.bc.ca/.