By Heather Rivers Sentinel-Review
WOODSTOCK — To the Mitchell family, they are true heroes.
"Ryley wouldn't be here unless another family made a decision to donate their child's organs. We can never thank them enough," said Ryley's mother, Joanna Mitchell. "What better way to be a hero than be an organ donor?"
Five-year-old Ryley Mitchell's story is one of several told on a new website launched on Monday, June 13, that's designed as an online organ donor registry.
"Ontario has a very low registration rate for people wanting to be organ donors, only 17%," Mitchell explained. "In order to make it easier for people to register, an online registry has been created in hopes of increasing the number of organ donors available."
The Woodstock family will attend the official media launch of the website on Tuesday, June 14, at St. Michael's Hospital in Toronto.
Ryley, who suffered from dilated cardiomyopathy, otherwise known as an enlarged heart, received a new heart seven months after she was born.
Today, Mitchell said, her daughter is a "happy, loving child" who is active in gymnastics, dance and soccer.
"She loves life," Mitchell said. "After all that she's gone through, she doesn't dwell on the tests and procedures."
In April, Mitchell and her daughter travelled to Toronto to be filmed for a promotional video for the website.
"It was a really interesting experience — we're everyday people — to go to a studio was very neat," Mitchell said. "It was also a very emotional experience. You're reliving the experience."
Ryley, who loves to colour and whose favourite colour is pink, is thriving more than five years after her transplant. Despite some setbacks around age two and three, Mitchell said she is happy about her daughter's progress, and medical appointments regarding her transplant have dwindled to only four times a year.
Mitchell said she hopes their story helps drive home the importance of advocating for those still waiting for transplants.
There are nearly 1,500 Ontarians on the waiting list for organ transplants, and thousands more needing tissue transplant. Every three days, one person in Ontario on the list dies.
The new online registry has been created with the hopes of increasing the number of organ donors available.
"So many people don't realize you can't just fill out that little card and carry it in your wallet," Mitchell said.
Often, Mitchell said, wallets are unavailable when a decision is being made and family members may not have discussed their loved one's decision with the deceased.
"This is an official way of letting your family know," Mitchell said.
The new website is located at http://beadonor.ca.