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18. #50YearsofTransplant: Kristin Copes

Kristin Copes has worked at BC Transplant for the last five years in two different roles consistently supporting organ donation and transplantation. Her passion for the transplant community has been very strong from the beginning of her career.
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What is your role within BC Transplant?

"For the last year I have worked as an On-site Organ Donation Coordinator based in the interior. Previous to this role, I was a Surgical Recovery Specialist based out of Vancouver for four years."

Why did you decide to work in this field?  Do you have any personal connections to the transplant community?

"Before I began my career with BC Transplant, I worked first as a palliative care nurse, then as an Operating Room (OR) nurse at St Paul's Hospital (SPH). While working in palliative care, I learned a lot more about life then I ever did about death. My patients taught me about the value of life and how human resilience could be a powerful thing. At SPH, we performed many heart and kidney transplants and I had the opportunity to be a part of many of these cases. During these experiences, I discovered a passion for surgery and marveled at the resilience of the physical human body. While working there, I was also introduced to the Recovery Team and luckily a position opened up at BC Transplant. For me, doing this work combines my passion for end of life care and surgery. It also allows me to be a vessel for offering new opportunities for the sick to live, which is ultimately a great privilege."

What is the most rewarding part of being on this team?

"The most rewarding part of being on this team is knowing that everyone genuinely feels the same passion for donation. Every person who is part of this organization wants to be here and loves to work here. When we all come together to celebrate our team, the strength and passion is very evident."

Can you explain what a day in the office looks like for you?

"Due to the unpredictable nature of our case work, everyday looks very different for me. If there is a donor case in the interior, I am generally at the hospital supporting the ICU staff with donor management and supporting the donor family through the organ donation process. If I am not working on a case, I am busy providing education to the OR nurses in the interior and collaborating with my colleagues in Vancouver on projects to improve our practices."

Can you share any particular stories or experiences that come to mind throughout your time here?

"When working as a Surgical Recovery Specialist, I had a case early one Christmas morning. I was humbled by how honored the whole team felt to be part of such a special case. When Christmas is about giving, what a privilege it was to help facilitate the greatest gift of all - the gift of life. When we arrived at the transplant center, the recovery surgeon and I put large red bows on the red organ coolers before delivering them to the transplant ORs. It was truly a special moment and a great reminder of what we do and why it is so special and important."

Having seen the miracle of transplant so closely, how important is organ donation and discussing one's decisions with family and friends?

"In my experience, families that are presented with a donor card outlining their loved one's decision, really relieves the pressure. Imagine if you have to make this decision at a tragic time where you are uncertain regarding the wishes of your loved one. It makes an already difficult time, very hard. The donor card allows the individual to express their wishes - yes or no - and even be specific around research, education as well as transplant."

What would you say are the common myths around organ donation and what can you share with us to clarify any of these myths?

"I think the most common myth is around who can be a donor and who cannot. We do not have the same exclusions as Canadian Blood Services or the eye bank. The most important message we stress to hospital staff, is to call us and let BC Transplant make the decision if the patient is eligible or not."

What is your perspective on BC's milestone of 50 years of donation and transplant?

"I am excited to be part of the team for this amazing milestone! To see how far BC has come over the 50 year history is phenomenal and I look forward to seeing where we will be in another 50 years."

#50YearsofTransplant; 50in50; BC Transplant
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