Queen’s Tissue & Organ Donor Advocates encourages students to give the gift of life

‘There’s someone out there at Queen’s who signs up to be an organ donor that wouldn’t have otherwise’ 

QTODA co-chairs sit down with The Journal to discuss the club’s goals and achievements.
“People shouldn’t be dying on a waitlist.”
On Sept. 8, The Journal sat down with the co-chairs of Queen’s Tissue and Organ Donor Advocates (QTODA), Ethan Cooney, MSc ’23 and James King, ArtSci ’22.  The two discussed the importance of becoming an organ donor.
In 2019, 4,400 Canadians were on standby for an organ transplant. Nearly 250 people died while on the waitlist. Canada’s organ donor rate of only 21.8 donors per million people is one of the lowest amongst all developed countries.
To the co-chairs of QTODA, these are statistics that need to change.
“In a country like Canada, we have an amazing health care system, and people are still dying. Canadians are very, very selfless people, and I think no one really wants to see that happen,” King said.
According to King, founding a tissue and organ donation advocacy group was an idea that had already been on his mind for some time. He decided to make the club a reality after discussing the cause with students. 
“I think people would really get behind supporting this kind of idea if we can just provide a bit more education and knowledge about what the process is,” he said.
“When we think specifically about Queen’s students, what I think is great about working with the student demographic to increase the number of organ and tissue donors is that we have the potential throughout our hopefully many, many years of life, to make a difference in this way.” 
One of the driving forces behind King’s decision to form this club was his connection with his grandfather, who received a heart transplant. The outcome of this life-saving procedure opened King’s eyes to the importance of organ donation.
“Not only had [my grandfather] been able to be a part of my life [due to this transplant], but from the stories I was told, he was able to completely turn around his life too and have a second shot at life. I feel this whole issue of organ and tissue donation is something that I want other people to be able to benefit from as well.”
Last year, QTODA’s capstone event was the organization of Green Shirt Day—a day that aims to promote organ donation registration and awareness across Canada. 
The event was founded in 2018 in honour of Logan Boulet, a victim of the Humboldt Broncos bus crash, whose organs were donated after his death to save six lives. 
News of Boulet’s gift inspired more than 150,000 Canadians to register as organ donors in the weeks following the crash. 
To commemorate Green Shirt Day, QTODA partnered with Canadian Blood Services to hold a gift basket giveaway, with every person who completed a short quiz on organ and tissue donation facts being entered into the prize draw. 
The club also held a donor registration drive that encouraged students to register as an organ donor through a link on their Instagram account.
“A lot of people are able to sign up [to be a donor] whenever you go to renew your license or go get your driver’s license in the first place,” Cooney said.
“This link online just provides yet another avenue for people to sign up to become organ and tissue donors.”
King and Cooney are optimistic about QTODA’s future. This year, they hope the club can educate more people about organ donation and ways to sign up to become a donor.
“Depending on the situation, we would like it to be more in-person, more involved. It would be lovely to see Queen’s students walking around campus with green shirts on Apr. 7—that would be my goal,” King said.
He also touched on the possibility of having the club organize and talk to local officials on policies surrounding organ donation.
But some indicators of success aren’t always as visible or as easily measured as event turnout numbers or policy changes, King insisted. Above all else, he says QTODA’s ultimate goal is to convince more people to give the gift of life.
“There’s someone out there at Queen’s who signs up to be an organ donor that wouldn’t have otherwise, and saves lives because of it,” he said.
“If we’re able to educate and hopefully get at least one person this year to sign up, then we’ve made a difference in however many people’s lives that one person can benefit,” Cooney added.

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