Nanaimo’s Deborah Graves, a transplant recipient, shares her story during an event Monday with Citizens’ Services Minister Jinny Sims and Leanne Appleton, B.C .Transplant provincial executive director. The event celebrated a partnership between B.C. Transplant and Service B.C. TAMARA CUNNINGHAM/News Bulletin

Minister highlights efforts to register organ donation decisions

Nanaimo woman shares transplant story during organ donation event

While her South African accent sets her apart, Deborah Graves jokingly tells friends she has Canadian body parts and that makes her a very authentic Canadian.

Graves, a Nanaimo resident, was in dire circumstances and not given much of a chance of survival when medical staff at Vancouver General Hospital told her she need to go on an organ transplant wait list in 2011.

She had picked up a parasitic water fluke while travelling in Malaysia years earlier, and in 2011 when a varices ruptured she was rushed to the hospital where it was discovered she had liver cirrhosis. She had two liver transplants that year after her body rejected the first.

“To think not only once, but twice I had that gift offered to me. That is so extremely rare and I realize just how fortunate I am just to be standing here,” said Graves, who often thinks about the lives that made hers possible and the courageous decision families of donors had to make in a time of great sorrow.

Graves joined Citizens’ Services Minister Jinny Sims, B.C. Transplant provincial executive director Leanne Appleton and Nanaimo MLA Leonard Krog during an event at the Service B.C. office on Selby Street on Monday to celebrate the partnership between Service B.C. and B.C. Transplant.

Since 2015, Sims said Service B.C. has worked with B.C. Transplant to help more than 60,000 British Columbians register as donors.

“We are very, very pleased that here in Nanaimo, 1,700 people have been signed on so far and for a community our size, that’s quite something,” said Sims, who noted between April and December last year, the number was 540.

“When you think that each person who signs, that’s up to eight organ donations, and so we are very, very impressed with the work done here, but today we are here really to highlight the work done right across the province and how we need to do more.”

There was a 25 per cent increase in deceased organ donors which helped save a record-breaking 479 lives last year, says B.C. Transplant in a press release.

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But donations still aren’t matching demand. More than 600 people were waiting for an organ transplant as of Jan. 1. Last year, 29 people died while waiting for a life-saving organ.

The number of living donors has also decreased. There were 130 in 2013, which dropped to 95 in both 2016 and 2017, data from B.C. Transplant shows.

Appleton said B.C. continues to be a leader across Canada with living donations and B.C. Transplant is working to make it easier for potential recipients waiting for a kidney transplant by educating them about how to reach out and identify potential living donors.

This year, after seeing the highest deceased donor rate per million, Appleton said B.C. Transplant wants to continue the progress, hopes to get beyond the 25 per million donor rate and have more living donors.

For more information or to register as an organ donor, follow this link.

-with files from Ashley Wadhwani

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