In light of the Humboldt Broncos bus tragedy this month, there’s has been a lot of talk about organ donations.
This month happens to be “Be A Donor Month.”
Saskatoon transplant surgeon Dr. Mike Moser said you can really change someone’s life by not only having a donor sticker on your health card, but by also becoming a living donor.
He said it’s possible to be an organ donor while you’re still alive.
“The most common situation is it’s possible for a healthy person to donate one of his or her kidneys and live very normally after that. It’s also possible to be a living donor of a portion of lung or liver, even portions of a pancreas or small intestine,” Moser said.
Being a living donor is very important in helping patients with certain conditions who are on waiting lists for organs that would save their lives.
“The first step in becoming a kidney donor … is to make a phone call, that’s all it takes to get it started, make a call to one of our transplant coordinators. This is a call that has to be made by the person who’s hoping to be a donor,” Moser said.
He said transplant teams never reach out to people to become living donors.
“When you call it starts off pretty simple. You’re asked a few questions and these are questions that are just designed to find out at an early stage if there are any obvious reasons the donation would not be safe,” Moser explained.
If the answers to those questions are ok, then the person moves on to some basic blood tests and if that’s all good then the testing progresses to more and more specific testing like a CAT scan, for example.
“In the end, if a candidate can get through the five stages of testing with good results in each stage, to suggest it would be safe to move ahead, then the surgery to donate can be planned,” Moser said.
Donating a kidney can be done through laparoscopic surgery, which means the surgery will be done with minimal invasion of the body.
Doctors will cut about a six centimeter incision in order to remove the kidney.
“In the old days, and by this I mean only about 10 years ago, kidney donation was done through a 30 centimeter incision on the flank and that also involved removing the lower rib,” Moser said.
He said it was a big deal back in the day. But now, it’s done with a small incision and a small camera in order to see inside the body.
According to Moser, anyone who donates a kidney will undergo minimal pain and they recover faster than before.
He said people are generally out of the hospital within two or three days of surgery and are back to work in about six weeks.
Even the ability to keep an organ alive outside the body has come a long way. Nowadays, organs are able to be shared across the province and country.