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About Sickkids
About SickKids

May 14, 2012

New outreach program encourages high school students to become ambassadors for organ donation

In a unique teen-focused GTA outreach program, three Toronto transplant centres are teaming up with young transplant recipients and Trillium Gift of Life Network to educate high school students about the lifesaving impact of organ and tissue donation.

Through this new pilot project, nearly 100 health-care professionals from The Hospital for Sick Children (SickKids) Transplant & Regenerative Medicine Centre, University Health Network (UHN) Multi-Organ Transplant Program and St. Michael’s Hospital Transplant Program are visiting more than 35 high schools from the Toronto Catholic School Board and Toronto District School Board. Their collective goal is to raise awareness among youth about what being an organ donor can mean for babies, children and youth experiencing organ failure.

“High school students may not know they can make a difference, but by registering to become an organ donor, or even initiating a simple conversation, they could give someone just like them a second chance at life,” says Dr. David Grant, Medical Director of the SickKids Transplant & Regenerative Medicine Centre and Surgical Director of the UHN Multi-Organ Transplant Program, who will be addressing students at Loretto College School on Monday. “By educating teens about how organ donation saves lives, we hope they will become advocates in their families, their schools and in their communities.”

Rebecca Samuel, an 18-year-old liver transplant recipient, knows firsthand how it feels to be given the gift of life; in fact, she received this gift twice – from total strangers – during her teenage years. Samuel will be joining her surgeon, Dr. Grant, at Loretto College School and is looking forward to sharing her story with other teens.

“Getting an organ transplant is the greatest gift anyone could ever receive,” she says. “Most people don’t realize kids can have organ failure, not just adults. Just knowing you helped save someone’s life – what could be better than that?”

Ronnie Gavsie, CEO of Trillium Gift of Life Network, notes, "we are happy to be working with our partners to build a culture of organ and tissue donation in this province. The youth outreach program is a wonderful platform to enhance knowledge and understanding and to emphasize that a signed organ donor card no longer means you are registered. To register your consent to be an organ or tissue donor, you need to visit www.beadonor.ca and take two minutes to register online. Do it today, you may save a life."

The awareness program involves assemblies and interactive classroom sessions to teach 16- to 18-year-old students the facts about organ and tissue donation and transplantation this spring. The sessions are led by surgeons, physicians and a wide spectrum of allied health professionals, including nurses, transplant coordinators, social workers, physiotherapists and occupational therapists and a Trillium Gift of Life Network representative. Organizers hope to expand the program to more GTA schools during the 2012-2013 school year.

The outreach program is an initiative of the Toronto Transplant Institute, which includes SickKids, UHN, St. Michael’s Hospital, University of Toronto and Trillium Gift of Life Network.

To learn more about organ and tissue donation, or to register as a donor, visit www.beadonor.ca.

For more information, please contact:

Suzanne Gold
The Hospital for Sick Children
416-813-7654, ext. 2059
suzanne.gold@sickkids.ca

Alexandra Radkewycz
UHN (Toronto General, Toronto Western, Princess Margaret Hospitals and Toronto Rehab Institute)
416-340-3895
alexandra.radkewycz@uhn.on.ca

Leslie Shepherd
St. Michael’s Hospital
416-864-6094
ShepherdL@smh.ca

Leona Hollingsworth
Trillium Gift of Life Network
416-619-2363
lhollingsworth@giftoflife.on.ca