Record number of living donor transplants offer new hope in Edmonton

April 25, 2022

49 transplants performed in 2021 through Edmonton Kidney Transplant Program

EDMONTON — The Edmonton Kidney Transplant Program performed a record number of living donor kidney transplants last year, despite challenges arising from the COVID-19 pandemic, according to statistics released today by Alberta Health Services (AHS).

In 2021, 49 living donor kidney transplants were performed, exceeding the previous record of 45 set in 2004.
“The demand for kidney transplants in Alberta is greater than our ability to recover healthy kidneys, both in the province and across Canada. Our living kidney donor program is working to reduce the number of people waiting for a life-changing transplant,” says Dr. Sita Gourishankar, Director of Living Donor Kidney Transplant Program and Acting Medical Director, Kidney Transplant Program.

“In 2021, the living donor program team streamlined our process for evaluation of donors and accomplished a record number of living donor kidney transplants. Our success is thanks to incredibly generous donors giving the ultimate gift, allowing people to come off dialysis and get back to a normal life.”

Provincially, AHS transplant teams performed 404 organ and tissue transplants last year, compared to 395 transplants in 2020 and 433 in 2019. There were 312 people on the organ and tissue donation waitlist last year; 50 of whom died before a suitable organ became available.

While most organ and tissue donations are from deceased donors, Alberta’s living donor programs also help save lives and improve the quality of life for hundreds of Albertans.

Dianna Havin was one of those living donors, who changed the life of someone she’s never met. She anonymously donated a kidney last year after reading about someone who needed one.

“I just thought, this person needs a kidney. I could do this,” she says.

“My family is raised, they’re supportive, I’m retired, my health is good. So I had the luxury of time, the blessing of good health and the inclination. It’s truly worth it. That little warm feeling that I did some good in the world, there’s no price you can put on that. And to think that somebody somewhere is having a better life? I would do it again tomorrow if I could.”

More than 814,000 Albertans have legally registered to affirm their wishes to donate their organs and/or tissues on the province’s online organ and tissue donation registry since its launch in 2014.

Albertans can also document their desire to donate organs and/or tissues at their local registry agent when they renew their driver’s license or other identification.

“Living donor programs help save lives and improve the quality of life for hundreds of Albertans. It’s an important option for patients and we encourage that discussion within families,” says Dr. Justin Weinkauf, transplant respirologist and Zone Clinical Section Chief for Transplant Services.

“Our hope is that all Albertans consider organ and tissue donation, and discuss it with their loved ones. We’re incredibly grateful for the families and individuals who chose to give this extraordinary gift.”

National Organ and Tissue Donation Awareness Week is April 24-30. To learn more about living donor programs and how to become a donor, visit MyHealthAlberta: About Living Donation.

Alberta Health Services is the provincial health authority responsible for planning and delivering health supports and services for more than four million adults and children living in Alberta. Its mission is to provide a patient-focused, quality health system that is accessible and sustainable for all Albertans.