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14. #50YearsofTransplant: Lannie Aquino and Sarah Kaigon

This story highlights our partnership with ICBC and their dedicated staff who inform the public on the importance of organ donation. Lannie and Sarah share their experiences and personal reasons for supporting BC Transplant.
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How are you connected to the transplant community?

Lannie: "My main motivation for supporting BC Transplant and asking people to register is my sister who was diagnosed with early Parkinson's disease.  On BC Transplant's registration form, there is a part that includes consenting to research so I am hoping one day through research, there will be a cure for Parkinson's disease as well.  Every time I give out the organ donation form I am hoping that someone will start research and positively impact the health community in general. I also recently lost an uncle last year who was waiting for a kidney transplant. So this topic is very personal to me as every time I give the form, I hope that someone will benefit from it."

Sarah: "My aunt struggled with cancer for about 15 years and went into remission three separate times, including receiving a bone marrow donation prior to one of her remissions. The fourth time the cancer came back, she was in her late 60's and decided she no longer wanted to try and fight it as she was done. I too, am a registered organ donor and it was hard to see such a strong woman lose her life to such a horrible disease/situation."

Can you share any meaningful experiences with clients or customers in your day-to-day conversations about organ donation at ICBC?

Lannie: "There are actually three stories that stand out but I will share one particular story that is very meaningful. Last year, I handed a registration form to a South Asian man. To my surprise, he said 'absolutely' and proceeded to tell me a personal story. He said: 'You know I come from a close knit community where we wouldn't even touch a registration form. My beliefs include that I was born full and so I should die full as well. But I had a nephew who was very close to me and he died at a young age from a car accident. His mom said she had a conversation with her son a few months before the accident and he wanted to be an organ donor. This really opened my eyes; it's a weird feeling knowing that my nephew is gone but he is alive somewhere.' To me, this story was very powerful and I try to share it with as many people as possible. Later that day, I actually went home and told my family about the man and his nephew and my husband who was holding off, finally decided to sign up after listening to this story."

Sarah: "I have had a couple of clients who recently shared that their friend or family member required an organ donation so they strongly believe in donating. I also had a woman who was personally donating a kidney to her friend's cousin as she was found to be a match and said 'I don't need both, so why not?'. I have also had several clients who are organ recipients and who also hope to give the gift of an organ if they are able to (medically) in the future."

On the contrary, what are some common myths or misunderstandings you come across?

Lannie: "I see that quite often here where they won't even touch the form because they think it's bad luck. I always try to talk to them and share my perspective. I will ask if they have a family member who is sick right now and ask how amazing it would be if they had the option of living another year because of organ donation. Some people decide to register after this conversation. I don't know what their decision is but the fact that they registered a decision is something. I will always try to at least have a conversation and share my story as I'm sharing a truth. My truth. Usually if they bring up their religion, I understand and respect that."

Sarah: "Many clients feel that due to their age, they are not eligible to be an organ donor. But I share that a co-worker's grandfather (93 years of age) donated recently after his passing. Also, I find that many people think because one body part/organ is bad, they can't be a donor for other parts in the future. I always respond and say that although I may have a bad heart, that doesn't mean my lungs or kidneys would not be useful when the time comes.

So many clients also have fears that the doctors won't try as hard to save them if they can access their organs for donation. We educate clients that their ID does not display that they are an organ donor and that the database for their decision is only checked once they have been pronounced dead by two different doctors."

How important do you think organ donation is and discussing one's decisions to donate with family and friends?

Lannie: "I always believe that word of mouth is the best advertisement and so for me, the more people that are aware of it the better. I am hoping that one day Canada will have an opt-out system like other countries. For now, this is the best thing we can do, so I am committed to it and try to talk to as many people as possible."

Sarah: "Life is short, it is a bittersweet fact. When it is my time, I want to spread some joy so that what is normally a negative experience will bring a modicum of happiness to my family to know that I made the decision to save someone. I think it is very important to discuss your wishes with friends and family because the confusion, pain, and fear that will occur when the time comes, can make the decision to donate all that much harder if not pre-discussed."

50in50; #50YearsofTransplant; BC Transplant
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