INTERNATIONAL ORGAN DONATION AWARENESS-CANADA-PAYING IT FORWARD
Source: Amherst Daily News
Paying it forward
Cumberland County's organ and tissue donation co-ordinator Sue Boiduk and transplant recipient look over a banner for National Organ Donor Week that begins locally with a celebration on Saturday at Victoria Square and the Lions Community Centre. Darrell Cole - Amherst Daily News
AMHERST - Mike Blakeney believes people were put on earth for a purpose.
"We were put here to pass the ball, pay it forward and now I believe that more than ever," Blakeney said. "I never thought of that before I had my transplant because I didn't have to."
Blakeney was living a normal life up until about six years ago when he started felling sick. Although he found himself fatigued a lot, he didn't think much about until he started turning yellow. When he was diagnosed with liver disease and told he needed a new liver to survive, it hit him that he'd never once thought about being a donor.
The Amherst resident is one of many people in the community living with a transplant and he's using the fact that he's alive and well six years after his surgery to encourage others to become a donor.
Not only that, he wants potential donors to have a frank discussion with their loved ones regarding their wishes in case the unimaginable happens.
"It's not exactly a supper table conversation but it's a conversation that has to be held," said Blakeney, who called his transplant a life-changing experience. "We're all guilty of procrastination and we all say we're going to do something, but keep putting it off. This is something you can't put off because you never know when something is going to happen."
Blakeney said the transplant gave him his life back. The bottom line, he said, is people often go through life without ever thinking about being a donor until they or someone they know is in need.
"One day you are not feeling well and you go to a doctor. After many checkups and blood work the final diagnosis comes that you don't need medication you need a new organ. That's when it hits you," he said. "It's a real smack in the face and it changes your entire way of thinking. I had a transplant because someone signed a donor card. I'm able to have this conversation and enjoy this day because of that."
Cumberland County's organ and tissue donation co-ordinator Sue Boiduk said it's important to spread the word about becoming a donor and having people tell their families about their wishes to be a donor.
"The need is as strong now as it ever has been," she said.
There are 4,000 Canadians awaiting organ transplant with 120 of them being Nova Scotians. Along with the need for organ transplants, the need is also strong for tissue donors.
Along with skin, tissue donors can provide bone, ligaments, tendons and corneas and anyone up to age 80 can donate.
National Organ Donor Week is April 18-25 and there are a number of special events being planned for Cumberland County beginning on Saturday with a flag-raising ceremony at Victoria Square at 1:15 p.m. and the formation of a human green ribbon from the square to the Lions Community Centre on Electric Street.
There will be entertainment, light refreshments and information on organ and tissue donation and the opportunity to sign an organ donor card.
Dr. Allan MacDonald, a surgeon at the Cumberland Regional Health Care, will provide information about organ and tissue donation. He is the former director of the multi-ogan transplant program at the QEII Health Sciences Centre in Halifax.
A number of information booths will be held at Cumberland Health Authority facilities across the district next week while on Saturday, April 24 a day long information session will be held at the Amherst Centre Mall where people can learn more about organ donation and sign a donor card.
Representatives from the Kidney Foundation, the Canadian Blood Services Bone Marrow Transplant program and the CHA will also be participating.