Long list of people waiting for transplants
The transplant system in B.C. still relies on luck and timing for success.
Darvy Culleton, 37, had a double lung transplant nearly 10 years ago because cystic fibrosis reduced his quality of life. He only had to wait four months for his organs, while most people can wait up to a year — if they survive that long.
“It’s timing. It’s luck,” he said. “A lot of people in my situation they don’t survive because the transplant doesn’t come soon enough. That was certainly scary for us.”
For adults suffering with cystic fibrosis — causing abnormally thick mucus that blocks the pancreatic ducts, intestines and bronic often resulting in respiratory infection — there’s only one local clinic for treatment, where Culleton said he met quite a few people in his situation.
“You get to know everybody else and I see people who don’t make it quite often,” he said. “I know people who have been successful, but there were lots of people who weren’t successful and it was a scary thing. We’re in the exact same position.”
Culleton said his organ donor didn’t just save his life, but also helped his wife and his family.
“My mom gets to have her son, my sisters get to have their brother,” he said. “It’s a ripple effect. I think that gets lost along the way. When you save one person you’re saving 50 to 60 people sometimes within their circle, within their family.
“I think if more people could see that, it might really encourage them.”
There are approximately 550 British Columbians waiting for a transplant right now.
Ed Ferre, BC Transplant’s provincial operations director, said the good news is transplants were significantly up this year — so far at 396 — but there’s always a disparity between the number of organs available and the people who are waiting.
“There’s a limited number of organ donors,” he said.
The transplant system faces hurdles such as matching the right organ to the right recipient, getting the organ from a donor under circumstances that leave them healthy and intact, and distraught families left to make a tough decision on behalf of the deceased.
“I want to really emphasize it takes a few minutes to make a decision to register,” he said. “Every donor can save up to eight lives. It’s an incredible legacy these people leave.”
For more information, visit register.transplant.bc.ca