Heart transplant recipient Cheryl Olson calls her organ donor her heart hero.
“She saved my life, so she’s my hero,” Olson said about the woman who made possible her heart transplant in 2008. “Without organ donation – without someone having said yes – I wouldn’t be here today. My family would not be complete. My donor not only saved my life, she saved my family.”
A wife and mother of two who loves to volunteer and travel, Olson is one of six people affected by organ and tissue donation who are taking part in a provincial campaign to raise awareness about the impact organ and tissue donations can have.
The Offer Hope campaign was launched at Saskatoon’s St. Paul’s Hospital to help individuals, families and their communities learn about the importance of talking to their loved ones about organ and tissue donation. Families who have talked about their decision to donate are more likely to honour the wishes of their loved ones should organ and tissue donation be possible after death.
“This campaign is a reminder of the lifesaving and life-enhancing benefits of organ and tissue donation,” Health Minister Dustin Duncan said. “One organ donor can save up to eight lives, and one tissue donor can improve the lives of more than 75 people. Everyone is a potential donor, and supporting donation is something we should all consider.”
Currently, there are about 90 Saskatchewan people waiting for a kidney transplant and a similar number waiting for corneas. Many others need life-saving heart, lung or liver transplants. Deciding to donate could save or improve someone’s life.
During the campaign, the inspiring stories of six donors and recipients will be told through videos and posters. The first story, released December 2014, featured Acacia Tisher, a young woman whose donation of six organs after her death saved five lives. Cheryl Olson’s story as a heart transplant recipient was released today. A new story will be told each month until May. See all the stories at www.saskatoonhealthregion.ca/transplant.
In addition to videos and posters, an online Offer Hope Toolkit is available to help families and communities start talking about organ and tissue donation. Each toolkit includes a Thank You letter, How to Talk to Your Family brochure, Organ and Tissue Donation Myths and Facts, How to Get Involved fact sheet, posters, and organ and tissue donor stickers.
“Many people would not hesitate to accept a donated kidney or heart if it was needed to save their lives,” Provincial Saskatchewan Transplant Program Director Diane Shendruk said. “It’s harder to make the decision to donate because often it comes as a result of a loved one’s death. But it’s important for us to remember that organ and tissue donation isn’t just about death. It’s about life, and the potential we have as human beings to offer hope even after our own life has ended.”
In addition to supporting the Offer Hope campaign, the Government of Saskatchewan introduced a bill in the legislature in November to update organ and tissue donation legislation and allow more timely regulatory changes. That legislation is expected to be passed this spring. Managed by Saskatoon Health Region, the Saskatchewan Transplant Program provides service in Saskatoon and Regina.
The Offer Hope campaign is supported by the Government of Saskatchewan, Lions Eye Bank of Saskatchewan, Saskatchewan Transplant Program, Saskatoon Health Region and Regina Qu’Appelle Health Region. You can get more information at www.saskatoonhealthregion.ca/transplant.