Donors, surgeons saved 61 lung transplant patients in Alberta

Organ donationWhat a breath-taking feat.

University of Alberta hospital surgeons — and those who committed to organ donations — saved the lives of 61 patients who were in need of a lung transplant in 2015.

Surgeons performed 61 lung transplants in 2015, smashing the old record of 44 set in 2014. Of those 61 lung transplants, 47 organs were from Alberta donors.

That is on top of the record that was broken by the same staff in liver transplant surgeries. Surgeons performed 83 of those surgeries in 2015 — eclipsing the previous record of 80 set in 2007.

Of course, none of those surgeries would be possible without the gift from living and deceased donors, says Dr. Norman Kneteman, Zone Clinical Section Chief for Transplant Services with Alberta Health Services (AHS).

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Tim Penstone, a double-lung transplant recipient in Edmonton, talks to reporters Feb. 25, 2016 at the University of Alberta hospital about his surgery and how it changed his life.

“These record were made possible thanks to an exemption team, including donor co-ordinators, intensive care staff, nurses, respiratory therapists, physicians, surgeons and staff,” said Kneteman in a press release.

“They care for both organ donors and organ recipients at this site and work tirelessly to support our transplant program.”

All lung and liver transplants are performed at Edmonton’s University of Alberta hospital, along with the Mazankowski Alberta Heart Institute, and the Stollery Children’s Hospital. The Lung Association, Alberta & NWT is also continuing to fund research to help lung transplant patients.

Tim Penstone, a double-lung transplant recipient and an active volunteer with The Lung Association, says his life-saving surgery changed his life.

“I owe my life to my donor,” said Penstone, who took part in a media conference with AHS celebrating the milestone Thursday, Feb. 25, 2016.

Penstone was on a wait list for a lung transplant for four months until he received the call to get a transplant. Since the surgery, his life has improved immensely. He no longer has to carry oxygen with him 24 hours a day and he is back to running his own soil-management company.

“Without a lung transplant, I may not be here today,” said Penstone.

THE NEED IS STILL GREAT

Despite the milestone, however, The Lung Association and AHS urges Albertans to talk to their families and commit to organ and tissue donation as the need still remains high. Alberta has one of the lowest organ and tissue donor rates in the country, according to AHS.

Some who are waiting for a transplant “continue to die” because a suitable donor was not made available, said Kneteman.

“The need for organs is constant,” said Kneteman.

Once deceased organ donor could provide life-saving treatment for seven people, according to AHS

In order to encourage others to commit to organ donation, the provincial government launched the online organ and tissue registry in 2014.

Albertans can also commit to organ and tissue donation at their local registry agent when they to renew their driver’s licenses or other forms of legal ID.

—JC—

WANTED: A home for lung transplant patients in Edmonton, Alberta

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Linda and Kent MacInnes.

LOGAN LAKE, B.C. — Kent MacInnes, a 60-year-old resident who lives in this small picturesque town in British Columbia believes he made the right — yet difficult — choice to help protect his family’s financial future.

Despite living with congestive heart failure and a fatal lung disease known as idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis, MacInnes has chosen to pull himself off the wait list for a heart and double-lung transplant — a surgery he desperately needs in Edmonton’s University of Alberta hospital.

“If something were to happen after my surgery and I didn’t make it, then I would probably bankrupt my family and leave my wife with nothing,” said MacInnes.

Edmonton is the only city in Western Canada that has the expertise, facilities, and resources to handle these kinds of complicated surgeries, including double-lung transplants.

Medical costs are covered for the surgeries, even for patients like MacInnes who are from outside Alberta. However, travel and living expenses must be paid for by patients and their families — costs that can be financially crippling for anyone who lives outside a 100-km radius outside of Edmonton, especially for MacInnes who lives 865 km away from Alberta’s capital city.

Patients who need lung transplants — along with their caregivers — are required to stay in Edmonton for more than six months before, during and after their surgeries so they can be treated immediately if there are complications, like organ rejections.

Costs for those patients and their caregivers can be a huge financial burden, forcing families to make difficult decisions.

The Lung Association, Alberta & NWT doesn’t want to have any family decide between life and financial security. Our goal is to raise money to eventually build a home for transplant patients like MacInnes where they and their caregivers can have a place to call home during their entire stay in Edmonton.

The facility will also have staff on site where patients — like MacInnes — can get the care and information they need to help them prepare and recover from their surgeries.

“The cost of transportation is crippling in its own right,” said MacInnes. “I would have bankrupted my family.”

MacInnes says if all he needed was a double-lung transplant, having a home — supported by Lung Association donors — for lung transplant patients in Edmonton would have made a difference for his family.

His entire family is supportive of MacInnes’s decision.

“It is frightening to think how little we would have left after having to uproot and move to Edmonton,” said MacInnes who found out he had IPF after a heart attack in 2006.

“We would have to give up everything that we have here in order to be able to afford to live (in Edmonton).”

Help The Lung Association find a way to help patients like MacInnes by sending us a donation today.

Medicine Hat resident — a double-lung transplant recipient — reminds Albertans to commit to organ donating

 

 

Terry Sawchuk says his double-lung transplant in Edmonton back in March 2011 saved his life.

After suffering from idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis – a disease that causes scaring in the lungs so severe it makes it nearly impossible for patients to breathe – Sawchuk says he wanted “to turn a negative into a positive” by telling people his donated lungs saved his life.

“This illness was like being underwater – I was not able to breathe,” said Sawchuk who set up a handful of small booths around different locations in Medicine Hat for his personal campaign to get people to commit to organ donation.

Sawchuk says he originally wanted to get 60 people to commit before he turns 60-years-old on today, but the Medicine Hat resident has already doubled that number through his very own Facebook page.

After hitting his goal, Sawchuk now says he wants multiples of 60 commitments before his birthday next week.

The Lung Association, Alberta & NWT (“TLA”) applauds Sawchuk for his dedicated work.

“Every day has been a blessing since my surgery,”  said Sawchuk.

“It is such a pleasure to wake up every morning.”

New legislation will soon allow Albertans to commit to donating their organs and tissues when renewing their driver’s  licences or other pieces of identification.

They will also soon be able to commit to organ donation online.

This new change – advocated by TLA – will be an important step to addressing a significant shortage in available organs in Alberta by eliminating barriers for those
who want to commit to organ donation.

In the meantime, TLA is encouraging those who want to make this life-saving commitment to discuss it with their families and to sign the back of their Alberta Personal Health Care Card.

For more info on organ donating, check out www.ab.lung.ca and www.AlbertaDonatesLife.com.