“The most satisfying thing for me is to help people live the lives they choose”
Dr. Treleaven explains the positive impact a transplant can have on a patient’s life and why it’s important to be a registered organ donor.
Dr. Darin Treleaven, Medical Director of Transplantation and Head of Clinical Service for the Kidney and Urinary Program at St. Joseph’s Healthcare Hamilton, is passionate about the difference a transplant can make in a patient’s life. He is dedicated to enabling more patients to consider transplant as an option and works at both the hospital and provincial level to organize resources that support transplantation.
Dr. Treleaven explains what gaps still exist in helping patients receive life changing transplant surgery, and the positive impact a transplant can have on a patient’s life.
Why are you passionate about organ donation and transplants? I gravitated to the patients and people working in Nephrology during medical training. The nicest thing about kidney medicine is that you get to know your patients well over time, and the current best solution for many of our patients is a kidney transplant. I loved the teamwork in evidence at St. Joseph’s. Helping to make transplant available to as many people as possible became my most important motivator. I realized that the biggest problem facing transplantation is the low number of organs available for transplant – this is why I’m very focused on the health services, planning and administration that support organ donation and transplantation.
Where do we need to move the needle in organ donation to better support transplants? In general, people need more efficient access to transplants, including both deceased and living donor options. Living donor transplant is one of the best strategies for those who are waiting for a transplant, and we have opportunities to strengthen the resources and communication we provide to help families think about living donor transplant. We are currently working on making sure the right doors are open so that patients, families and loved ones are given the opportunity to decide if living donation is a possibility.
Deceased donation rates in Ontario have improved significantly in Ontario over the last few years thanks to teamwork. Our critical care community has really embraced the idea that when a family loses someone, they should have the option to consider their loved one as an organ or tissue donor. It resonates as good care, with our families and care providers, to be offered organ and tissue donation as an option - and we are so fortunate to receive those gifts from our donor families. It’s also important to officially register as an organ donor as it lets everyone know, your family and your care providers, what your wishes are.
What is it like for patients who are on the waiting list for a deceased donation? Most potential kidney transplant recipients will wait anywhere between three to five years on average for a transplant. The demand for organs far outstrips the supply. Patients waiting for a transplant are very brave and quite selfless about the experience, but still they are waiting. We do everything we can to find our patients a successful match, and ultimately the more Ontarians that register to be a donor, the more lives we can save.
What is it like to work with patients who have had their lives transformed by kidney transplant? The most satisfying thing for me is to help people live their lives the way they choose– spending time with their kids, earning a living, playing sports, traveling, and many of our patients are able to do this, with only minimal interruption to have their transplant. After our patients have had a transplant, they often feel a sense of relief, and are deeply grateful for the gift of organ donation, and to the many healthcare professionals at SJHH who made their transplant happen.