Fort Frances recently reached a milestone when it comes to organ donation.
It is among 13 other communities in Ontario that have reached a 50 percent registration rate.
New registration data released yesterday by the Trillium Gift of Life Network confirmed organ and tissue donor registration rates continue to rise across Ontario.
From July 1-Sept. 30, 2016, six communities, including Fort Frances, joined the highest ranks.
“In 2011, when Trillium Gift of Life Network began reporting registration rates by community, not one community in Ontario had reached the 50 percent benchmark,” it said in a press release.
“Today there are 14.”
Fort Frances, along with Parry Sound Mid Shore, Parry Sound North Shore, Owen Sound, Espanola, and Ingersoll were the newest additions, joining North Bay, Parry Sound, Sudbury, Nipissing North, Kincardine, Nipissing South, Bracebridge, and Timmins Region.
Fort Frances’ total increased by 1.5 percent since the last update three months ago, with 4,679 registered donors out of 9,384 health card-holders.
“It just shows how supportive Fort Frances residents are,” said Sarah DeGagne, whose husband, Nathan, received a heart transplant more than two years ago.
“Fort Frances should be very proud of that accomplishment,” she added, noting her husband is doing well today and it’s all because of organ donation.
The 34-year-old waited on the transplant list for 15 months for a new heart.
Samantha Pearson, another local resident who received a heart transplant, also is thrilled by the milestone.
“It makes me feel good,” she enthused.
“It’s something I’m passionate about and I always try to advocate for organ donation.”
One day while standing in line at Service Ontario, Pearson said she saw several people ahead of her say “no” to organ donation.
“It made me feel really bad and I didn’t understand why,” she recalled.
“But seeing those numbers come up, I feel like people are realizing it is an important thing and there are quite a few people in this town who have had organ donations and are alive because of it.
“I feel like it’s hit home with a lot of people and that’s fantastic,” Pearson added.
“I just encourage others to not wait to sign your donor card until it hits home.
“Do it now,” she stressed. “You’re more likely to need an organ than you are to be a donor, so you should just sign it.”
Pearson said it’s easy to do—just visit www.BeADonor.ca
She often shares the website on her Facebook page to increase awareness about organ donation.
“I just hit my five-year mark in October so every year around that time, I always make sure I share it,” Pearson explained.
She added you even can use the website to check to see if you’re registered.
“A lot of people might think that they are but they’re not,” she warned.
“Another huge thing is to have the conversation with your family,” Pearson urged.
“Because when it comes down to it, they are going to be the ones to say ‘yes’ or ‘no’ and if they don’t know your wishes, they might not make the same choice that you would want them to make.
“It only takes two minutes to register,” noted DeGagne. “All you need is your health card.”
“No one should have to wait 18 months on a transplant list,” she added.
“That’s too long.”
DeGagne said there are people who wait even longer because they are waiting for the right match.
But with more donors, the likelihood of a match would increase.
Many of the 14 communities have had registration drives, but Fort Frances hasn’t.
“It’s great that we’ve been able to reach that number without even doing that push,” said Pearson, though adding perhaps the community should do one.
But DeGagne noted 50 percent is a pretty high number considering some health card-holders are children or people who can’t donate.
“It’s really great to see that many registered donors in Fort Frances,” she enthused.
Currently, 30 percent of eligible Ontarians are registered organ and tissue donors, which represents 3.7 million individuals.
For more information, visit www.BeADonor.ca