The decision to end life support is a difficult and sensitive decision for any family. At Scarborough Health Network (SHN), a team of compassionate medical professionals support patients in their journey, as well as grieving families and loved ones. A critical part of these challenging conversations includes organ donation.

Organ donation is an integral part of quality end-of-life care, and SHN is continuing to lead best practices by compassionately facilitating donation discussions with eligible patients and families at end-of-life.

This year, SHN’s Birchmount Hospital intensive care unit (ICU), in partnership with the Trillium Gift of Life Network (TGLN), became the third hospital in the province to perform a non-perfused organ donation (NPOD) – a form of lung donation following an unexpected passing of a patient who has severe brain injuries, after all life-sustaining treatments have been removed.

Through an extended donation window, a transplantation of double lungs helped save a life. This is the longest time from withdrawal of invasive support to organ retrieval on record.

“After withdrawing life support, the patient did not pass away within the window to successfully recover any organs through conventional donation methods. The opportunity for this patient to become a donor was incredibly important to the family so our team kept working. While new to everyone involved in the case, lung donation through NPOD was our last option,” said Emily Hadley, manager of SHN’s Critical Care program.

Typically, NPOD allows for a lung donation window to be extended from two to three hours, up to 24 hours. In this case, the patient exceeded the window, pushing the boundary to 27 hours.

“The interprofessional team persisted through many challenges to make this donation possible and it was the exemplary collaboration of several teams that allowed for the success of this lung donation,” she added.

Lungs are a special organ; they can live on even after a patient passes away. That makes lungs suitable for transplant for hours after circulation stops because they can obtain air after death from air sacs and airways.

Last year, more than 50 individuals provided donations to patients in need at SHN. Through these donations, 50 people received the gift of sight, at least 75 people were saved from one multi-tissue donor; and many others received a renewed lease on life after receiving hearts, lungs, kidneys, livers and pancreas.

In this milestone case, the recipient was successfully discharged to home, post-transplant, and is now enjoying a second chance at life.

“There are around 1,500 people in Ontario are currently waiting for a life-saving organ transplant. Each one of those lives is unique and special,” said Hadley.

As the manager of Critical Care, she has seen first-hand how vital and incredible organ donation is. She said she cannot imagine a greater gift to give to another person.

“To me, being an organ donor is one of the purest forms of altruism that we can share with our loved ones, the organ recipient, and their loved ones.”

Register to be a donor

It takes two minutes to change someone’s life. Register your consent to donate your organs and tissue. Your choice could, one day, save up to eight lives.

Click here to register.