Quinn Thomas, a 21-year-old medical student from Montreal, decided to raise awareness for organ and tissue donation by cycling across Canada. After starting on June 24, he managed to undertake the feat in just 84 days.
Thomas reached his goal through press conferences, media articles, and meeting with politicians in the 27 cities he visited. When asked what kept him motivated, he answered a big heart and humble mind.
“Giving up has not been an option for [the organ recipients] and it would be ridiculous if it were an option for me too,” said Thomas.
Interestingly, the most challenging terrain for Thomas throughout the cycle was the prairies and Newfoundland. The continually strong wind made cycling difficult. This is opposed to cycling up a hill or in the mountains, where there is a reward when you reach the top and get to coast down the other side.
Thomas put things into perspective in order to stay motivated, believing that one day of cycling is nothing compared to a day on dialysis. Thomas believes that the real heroes are those dealing with the adversity of needing a transplant while trying to remain positive. Those waiting for an organ can wait up to 1,300 days while being on dialysis. This made cycling across the country no big deal for him.
According to Transplant Manitoba, 4,000 Canadians are waiting for an organ transplant. In 2010, 240 people in Canada died who were on the waiting list for an organ. There is potential to save up to eight lives when the decision is made to become an organ donor.
Thomas stated that up to 84 per cent of Canadians think that organ donating is the right thing to do, yet only 14 per cent actually sign up to be an organ donor. The most challenging part of raising awareness was communicating how easy it is to register in provinces that have online registry, including Manitoba, Ontario, and BC.
Many people do not take the seconds to register online, despite it being the most effective way. Sometimes people are not ready to make the commitment or they do not know how to register. Even if there is a reason that one thinks they cannot donate, if a liver is compromised from alcoholism for instance, there are still other unaffected organs that can be donated.
According to Thomas one of the most important steps to take is to notify family of your decision. A doctor will not operate if a family is unaware their loved one had wished to be an organ donor, if they are unable to make a decision due to stress or grieving or if they do not have the same wish. By letting family know of your intentions, it ensures that there are no surprises while the family is going through the grieving process.
“It’s really a way of giving meaning to death. It’s the best way to live on,” said Thomas.
Organ donation gives hope to families and a way to cope when their loved one is in need of a transplant. It adds to the loved one’s life and gives the families more time together.
Brian King, a supporter of Thomas’ who was driven to donate to the cause due to a personal experience with organ donation, wrote Thomas a letter. He stated that when his mother received a new kidney it added eight years to her life. This gave his family eight additional years to take full advantage of her life and their time together.
“My focus is more on the time we had together, quality time that was extended through the generosity of a young man who signed his organ donation card, and the incredible researchers and surgeons who made the transplant possible,” wrote King.
Thomas’ goal is to eventually become a surgeon. Judging by the effort he went through to raise awareness, it is clear that this is an important subject for him and he fits the criteria of being a doctor perfectly.
More information on Thomas’ journey can be found at his website organdonationheroes.ca. To become an organ donor visit transplantmanitoba.ca.