Firefighter pushes to revamp Manitoba’s organ donation program because of wait times

By | September 3, 2020

A Manitoba firefighter who needs a kidney transplant wants the province to reform its organ donor system, which he says is hampered by long waits.

Kyle Schmidt has been on a wait list for 10 years as he battles a rare kidney disease — IgA Nephropathy, which has progressed to end-stage renal failure.

“It’s nerve-wracking,” he said about being on the wait list. “There are hundreds of Manitobans right now waiting for kidney transplants.”

In fact, Manitoba has the longest wait times for a kidney transplant in the entire country. 

While he waits, Schmidt and his family have started a campaign to reform Manitoba’s current organ donor program “while I still have the energy and motivation to change it,” he said.

“At least, if nothing else, it will bring awareness to the current system and current situation, [because] we need to look at changing the legislation in Manitoba.”

Manitoba, like many other provinces, has a system where people must sign up to become an organ donor. Schmidt would like to see Manitoba follow the lead of Nova Scotia. In January 2021, that province will become the first with presumed consent.

That means people who do not want to be donors can fill out a form to opt out. Otherwise, everyone is a donor.

“There would be more organs in the system as people pass on,” Schmidt said. “We could save lives, get people off dialysis; we could get people kidneys.”

There’s also a financial benefit. The costs to have someone on dialysis is tremendous, from transportation to equipment to staff to tests.

“It’s $100,000 per year, per patient on dialysis,” Schmidt said.

He would also like to see more messaging put out to remind people that the organ donor cards they carry around in their wallets became obsolete last year, replaced by an online registry that logs your consent.

“Only three per cent of Manitobans are using it, way less than the national average of about 25 per cent,” Schmidt said. “So Manitoba, let’s step up.”

While he pushes for a system overhaul, Schmidt has also taken steps to find a solution to his own situation.

He started a Facebook group page called Kidney on Fire to search for a possible donor with type O blood, which he said is in high demand. He is urging people to share the page far and wide in the hope a donor can be found.

Despite his circumstance, he is keeping positive.

“I’m staying active and mobile. I’m still working, I’m still able to function for most of my daily tasks,” Schmidt said.

“I’m not quite on dialysis yet but my voice is going to run out. I’m going to get tired and run out of energy, so I want to get the message out now.”

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