Becoming an organ donor in B.C. has never been easier: advocates, recipients

Seven years ago, Mike Gojevic thought he was going to die.

The 52-year-old insurance claims adjuster was trapped in a recliner in his Vancouver home, hooked up to oxygen and unable to move after his lungs essentially failed for reasons still unknown to this day.

Now, Gojevic is enjoying life on the Sunshine Coast and is running a restaurant with his family in Half Moon Bay — all thanks to a double lung transplant he got a year later.

“It was such a relief,” he said. “I had been given 30 days in December, so that Christmas was pretty bleak. We couldn’t believe it when we got that call.”

Gojevic said his experience instantly made him an advocate for the importance of becoming an organ donor, which is getting even more attention this weekend with the arrival of Green Shirt Day on April 7.

The event was started by the parents of 21-year-old Logan Boulet, a victim of last April’s tragic Humboldt Broncos bus crash whose decision to become an organ donor before his death saw six lives get saved.

The key messages behind Bernadine and Toby Boulet’s initiative are the importance of talking to your family about wanting to be a donor, and how easy the process is — something Gojevic echoes when telling his own story.

“If someone has registered their decision and talked to their family about it, I think [the family] feels good about the opportunity to find a silver lining in that tragedy and do some good,” he said.

“They’re already dealing with the loss of a loved one, so you don’t want to add to that stress.”

So you want to be an organ donor. Now what?

In B.C., becoming an organ donor isn’t stressful at all. In fact, BC Transplant says it takes just two minutes to register online.

“All you need is your Personal Health Number,” BC Transplant executive director Leanne Appleton said. “You’ll fill out your name, address, and answer a few questions, and that’s it. It’s super easy.”

B.C. is already boasting strong numbers for organ donors. Last year saw a record-setting 502 lives get saved through organ transplants, including 339 kidney transplants and 50 lung transplants.

But Appleton said more than 650 British Columbians are still waiting for a transplant, so they’re always looking to see their donor numbers go up.

That’s why awareness campaigns like Green Shirt Day are so important.

“Green Shirt Day could potentially save lives,” Appleton said. “We have had so many people reach out to tell us they are participating in Green Shirt Day. It is really fantastic.”

Even before Green Shirt Day was created, the story of Logan’s gift to the six lives he saved inspired more than 4,000 online registrations in B.C. alone, something Appleton hopes will continue.

“Out of this tragedy there is hope and this ripple effect of Canadians embracing the ability to register as a potential organ donor,” she said.

Gojevic said the news of Green Shirt Day has even inspired him to start his own local version, partnering up with a local doctor to spread awareness in Half Moon Bay.

“We had a little challenge among the local medical clinics to see who could register the most people,” he said. “People just need that little nudge of awareness to take the moment and register.”

As he reflects on the six years of life he’s already been able to enjoy thanks to his transplant, Gojevic said it comes with mixed emotions knowing the sacrifice his donor made.

“You quickly realize that the reason why you’re getting this gift because someone else has passed away,” he said.

“They made this selfless decision, and I’m so grateful to that person and even more thankful to their family for following through.”

—With files from Robyn Crawford

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