As an intensive care physician at Grand River Hospital, Dr. Paul Hosek works with families when a loved one is at the end of their life.
Often, that discussion turns to organ donation. Dr. Hosek and other care providers work together with the organ and tissue donation coordinator from Trillium Gift of Life Network about potential opportunities for donations. He also works closely with the TGLN as GRH’s hospital donation physician to provide medical leadership and champion the organ and tissue donation program in the hospital.
As GRH marks its work in organ and tissue donation, Dr. Hosek reflects on how those conversations go and what people should know about the donation process.
For the patients and families you deal with, what strikes them when they first hear about organ donation?
Everybody's different. Most people are hopeful that anything at all positive can come from their tragedy. Occasionally people are angry or shocked at the request.
How do you talk with patients and families about organ donation when the time comes up?
A Trillium donation coordinator provides a great deal of the information for donation. They would look up consent decision information in the provincial donor registry that Service Ontario maintains.
Once that conversation has happened and a family has chosen to go ahead, all care providers work together to make sure the patient is well cared for and that their family feels supported as the donation unfolds.
What do you want people to know about organ donation that they may not know?
Many people feel that their loved one is too old, or too sick to be a candidate, but often that's not the case.
Many fear that they would suffer more by donating, but actually, besides the additional time to further investigate and process matches (sometimes as long as 24 hours), there is no discomfort experienced by donors. We know this because there is usually no cerebral activity during this period, or for donors after cardiac death, the patient has already died.
How have your thoughts about the importance of organ donation either changed or been reinforced in the years that you’ve been providing care?
I continue to grow as I meet and speak with families undergoing such an important decision. It is humbling to witness the generosity and willingness to help others expressed by people in their times of greatest sadness. It's an honor to serve them.