Organ donation registration is up, but not nearly enough, says an Ottawa man still waiting for a new kidney.
Craig Dunbar, a 40-year-old Stittsville resident, was diagnosed with acute kidney failure five years ago.
“I know what I’ve been through, and I don’t want to see other people go through that,” said Dunbar, a fund development coordinator with the Kidney Foundation of Canada’s Eastern Ontario chapter.
Dunbar sprained his ankle while playing softball and was on nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs.
About 10 days later, he went to his doctor with a severe migraine and ended up being diagnosed with kidney failure.
“I was hospitalized immediately and started dialysis two days later, after being extremely healthy and athletic up to that point,” said Dunbar.
More than 7,000 people in Ottawa registered consent to be a donor over the last three months, bringing the rate up to 23%, according to new data from beadonor.ca.
Organ and tissue donation have recently been in the spotlight after Barrhaven double lung transplant recipient Helene Campbell’s “A Lung Story” put a face to the 1,500 Ontarians currently on the wait list.
“It’s a fantastic thing, so absolutely, we should try to keep that momentum going,” said Dunbar.
Overall, the exposure, including appearing on the Ellen DeGeneres show, has led to the modest increases in registrations.
And that number is still low, said Dunbar.
Less than 25% of Ontarians are registered as organ and tissue donors, making us some of the stingiest in the country.
A change to the process is partly to blame, said Dunbar.
Donors must be registered — even if you’ve signed a donor card or your driver’s licence — since cards aren’t recorded in the ministry of health and long-term care’s database, meaning the Trillium Gift of Life Network, Ontario’s organ and tissue donation agency, hasn’t registered your decision.
“So there are quite a number of people out there who think that they are an organ donor and they’re really not, because that system has been replaced,” said Dunbar.
One thing that still exists is Dunbar’s lust for life.
He works and plays mixed slo-pitch with his wife, who helps him use a dialysis machine at home several times a week for nine hours at a time.
“My goal with the Kidney Foundation is to work myself out of a job by finding a cure,” Dunbar said.