Donor week coming up
Organ discussion needed

by Glen Korstrom
Northern News Services

NNSL (Apr 17/98) - Discussion is vital for Yellowknifers who might need a kidney, heart or cornea -- discussion among potential donors, that is.

Many Yellowknifers fill out organ donor cards and diligently carry them in their wallets -- but that may not be enough.

The process must not be discreet. Quite the opposite.

Before organ extraction can begin, close relatives are called to confirm the deceased's desire. So openness about being an organ donor is vital for the many who may someday need the organs.

"Usually somebody lifts your wallet," said Bill Adkins, Yellowknife's Mutual Life organ donor campaign director about methods to identify accident victims.

"But (paramedics) can't do anything about taking those organs because the person isn't alive to say, 'OK, go ahead.'"

Adkins stresses that interested Yellowknifers must fill out forms and discuss it with family.

"If something happens, there is a better chance of those organs being lifted at the appropriate time," said the eight-year Yellowknifer, who has assumed the role of advocate for those willing to permit organ extraction after death.

"People do not want to talk about it because it has to do with death."

Cards and brochures, which Adkins is quick to hand out, have a space for the person's name, which organs they wish to donate and spaces for their signature and that of their closest relative.

After a car crash, paramedics will phone the family to confirm the deceased wished to donate.

And that timeframe is critical for many organs such as the heart.

"There's not a lot of awareness up North," Adkins said. "As far as being actively involved in getting people to sign on the line there is nothing being done up here at all."

Sharon Cook, who co-ordinates Stanton Regional Hospital's Hope Program, confirmed all program records are kept in Alberta.

"All we've done here is organize our own hospital so if a person comes in here and it's obvious there's no hope for them, then our physicians can declare brain death and we can keep the people alive until the transplant people can come here."

Cook said even if people just jot out a signed note to keep in their wallets outlining which organs they would like to donate if they are in a fatal car accident, it is still important to discuss the intentions with family.

"If my life is over or they've got me on respirators and there is a need for transplants such as kidneys, then my feeling is, why not?" Adkins said.

"My use for it is over."

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