What is your role on the BC Transplant (BCT) team?
"My role on Vancouver Island as an In-Hospital Organ Donation Coordinator is to assist Island Health in promoting a culture that supports organ donation. This may be through policy development, education of staff and the public and general support of the staff out here. My role also encompasses approaching and supporting families going through the donation process."
Can you explain what a day in the life of your job looks like?
"My days truly vary. One day I may be doing paperwork and another day I may be working cases or on call. I also enjoy spending my time speaking at education sessions or attending public awareness events with our BC Transplant volunteers on the island."
What is the most rewarding part of being on this team?
"Simply put, it's making a difference in the lives of recipients and in the lives of donor families. When I first began at BCT, I ran into a donor family in public (this really is a small community sometimes). This woman mentioned to me that I had an awful job and saw the worst in people. I was able to share with her that it was quite the opposite… I see the very best in people, at the very worst of times."
What are some common myths and misconceptions you've come across about organ donation?
"I have worked in transplantation and donation for more than 25 years and have come across almost all the misconceptions there are. However, with ongoing public education globally, I can see an Island-wide and global culture shift, that is "normalizing" the thought of donation. More than ever, we are now having families bring up the topic of donation on their own."
How important is organ donation and discussing one's decisions with family and friends?
"It is ALWAYS easier to speak with families regarding donation, when a prior discussion has already occurred. The family isn't feeling that they are making the decision for anyone, just supporting the decision that has already been made. These families appear to be more comfortable with the entire process. On a personal note, my daughter recently turned 16 and brought up organ donation to me while studying for her driver's licence. She said we needed to immediately register her if she wasn't already."
What is your perspective on BC's milestone of 50 years of donation and transplant?
"Although I have only directly been a part of BCT's team journey for the last seven years, this question had me reflecting on my history in transplantation. It brings back many memories from my very first exposure to donation during nursing school with a donation coordinator in Manitoba, to the original trials of FK506 with patients (which would go on to be named Prograf and the mainstay of immunosuppression for many years). Others range from educating recipients on self care to the advent of paired exchange donation, the resurgence of living donation, and the study of donor management and recipient outcomes.
There has been SO much accomplished in 50 years and donation and transplantation is still a very young specialty. I have great hope for a future in transplantation where we will be able to find a suitable donor for most everyone. I think that it the dream of donation and transplantation."