When Katie Powell’s brother Mitch was put on the transplant list for a new liver in 2011, she wanted to find a way to help.
He had been suffering from primary sclerosing cholangitis (PSC) for about five years, an illness that caused scarring on his liver. Without telling her family, Powell – then 23 years old – started going through the tests to find out if she was a match for her brother.
She hoped to become a living donor, the liver being the only internal organ that is able to regenerate. When she got the OK from doctors a few months later, she told her family.
“None of them really said anything. My dad was in shock. My mom said it was a lot to think about, having two kids on the operating table.”
But for Powell, there was nothing to think about. She donated 60 per cent of her liver to her brother in June of 2012.
Though the surgery took a physical toll on her body, Powell and her brother are recovering well. She now volunteers with B.C. Transplant to raise awareness about organ donation, and counsels people who are going through the process of a live liver donation.
Powell said live donation is more rare than organ donation from the deceased. As National Organ and Tissue Donor Awareness Week approaches, running from April 21 to 27, she wants to encourage people to register as donors.
Powell said signing up is “the easiest thing ever,” and can be done online. But she added that many people who registered years ago may no longer be listed as donors, due to changes in driver’s licence registration.
She said people can check online to see whether they are still registered to donate, by entering their care card number at www.transplant.bc.ca.
Powell said she hopes people who would like to donate will register themselves, as the organs from one person can save eight lives. Often, in cases of unexpected death, families are unsure of whether the deceased wished to donate organs. She said registering as a donor can take unnecessary stress off grieving families.
“Don’t put it all on your family… I think it’s so important that you make that decision for yourself.”
For more information about organ donations and for those who would like to register, visit transplant.bc.ca.