'The need is huge': B.C.'s organ donation program expanding
Big changes are coming to the way British Columbians renew or obtain their drivers licenses, part of a new province-wide program targeting drivers in a bid to save more lives through organ donation.
Starting Monday, the process of renewing or obtaining your licence will be notably different: Every customer who walks into any of the province’s 16 ICBC licensing branches will be encouraged to register as an organ donor.
“We'd like to see every British Columbian register on the organ donation registry,” said Ed Ferre of BC Transplant.
Fifty per cent of British Columbians believe they're registered for organ donation, according to the Ministry of Health, but unfortunately, only 20 percent are. Just one organ donor can save up to eight lives.
The province wants to increase that percentage in a bid to shorten often lengthy wait times for the hundreds of patients waiting for new organs at any given time. Last year saw the highest number of transplants in the history of B.C.
This is the first initiative of its kind in Canada, and will become a permanent fixture in B.C. after the success of a pilot project at four driver licensing locations across the province saw more than 15,000 customers register as organ donors.
North Vancouver resident Shannon Westerlund has experienced the importance of organ donations firsthand: her teenage son Andrew was a given a second chance at life through an emergency heart transplant.
“[My son] is alive, and he’s thriving today because of that donor and their family,” she said.
“The need is huge, and I don’t think people realize how great the need really is… [register] now, because you don’t know what the future will bring to you.”
Want to check if you're registered to donate or want to register? Visit http://www.transplant.bc.ca/be-donor
With files from CTV Vancouver’s Sarah MacDonald