Article as Published in the Auroran
April 24, 2012
Do miracles still happen ?
I remember those words as if it was yesterday. They came from the back seat in that quizzical tone that a parent can't ignore. The Sunday School lesson earlier that morning had my five year old son's mind working in overdrive and I knew we were in for a non-stop interrogation as we made our way home from church that day.
As I sat in the Council Chambers at the Aurora Town Hall this past Friday morning, I recalled hearing that question put to me so innocently twenty-four years ago, and I silently answered.... yes, I'm in a room full of miracles.
The Gift of Life .......
The occasion was a press conference to announce the launch of The York Region Gift of Life Association and to usher in the National Organ and Tissue Donor Awareness Week, April 22 - 28.
As I looked around the room, I saw the faces of men and women who were in every sense of the word, walking miracles. Each had traveled a unique journey in their lives, but the one thing they had in common, was the fact that they were in that room because someone had made the selfless decision to be an organ donor. They had literally experienced a life-saving miracle.
They were there to give witness to the fact that they were alive and well, because of the modern day miracle of organ and tissue transplantation. And they were there to remind us that those life-saving miracles are dependent on the willingness of each of us to be a potential donor.
A father's legacy .........
Alyshia Van Veen and her family were confronted with the issue of organ donation through her father's death. It was his legacy as an organ donor that inspired Alyshia to spearhead the founding of the York Region Gift of Life Association, which was being announced at this press conference.
“With more than 1,500 people on the wait list and a provincial registration rate of 21 %, we need to make a change" said Mrs. Van Veen. “Through our stories and education and awareness initiatives, we hope to increase the registration rate both in York Region and province-wide".
The goal is to raise awareness and increase registration through community outreach. The organization is hoping to connect with service clubs, churches and other community groups who would be willing to help.
One person dies every three days waiting for a transplant.....
Aurora resident Bruce Cuthbert was perilously close to being counted into that statistic. He and his family know all too well what it's like to wonder whether he will live long enough to receive a transplant. A grateful transplant recipient, Bruce is also a founding member of the York Region Gift of Life Association.
How can it be .......
During my remarks at the press conference, I asked how can it be....that under the umbrella of a $48 billion health care system in Ontario, we have more than 1,500 on a wait list for organ transplants and that one of those people has to die every three days ?
Why is it, that in some jurisdictions, the rate of registered donors is as high as 80 percent, and in Ontario it's only 21 % ?
The answer is simple: Organ and tissue donation has not been a priority of the Ontario government.
Until recently, Ontario's system of registering organ donors has been antiquated and cumbersome. It wasn't until late last year, that the government finally responded to repeated calls to put in place an on-line organ donor registry system. And in comparison to the need, we have invested little in making the public aware of the importance and benefits of organ and tissue donation.
On behalf of us all, I want to thank the doctors and nurses who have dedicated themselves to this highly specialized and life-saving area of medical practice. It is not well-known that the work of our Ontario research and transplant teams are world-renowned.
Do miracles still happen ?
Yes they do ! They happen through the minds of the researchers who discover new ways of preserving and transplanting tissues and organs. They happen through the skills of surgeons and medical teams who have been entrusted with transferring the gift of life to a dying patient so freely given by another.
And miracles happen through the efforts of people like Alyshia Van Veen and Bruce Cuthbert, though their efforts to raise awareness of the importance of organ donation in our community.
I want to thank them and the many volunteers who will be supporting the work of the York Region Gift of Life Association in the years ahead.
And I would ask you to do your part to make miracles happen by registering as an organ donor at beadonor.ca
As always, I look forward to your comments and advice. I can be reached at my constituency office at 905 750 0019 or through my website at www.frankklees.com