There's been an overwhelming response to the plight of one year old Okotoks girl Lukah Mitchell.

She's in need of multiple transplants after doctors in Calgary discovered a tumour in her abdomen recently.

Thousands of people are asking how they can help out, mainly offering organ donation.

Dr. Susan Gilmour, a pediatric gastroenterologist out of the Stollery Children's Hospital in Edmonton says kidney transplants are the most common, but liver transplants are also viable.

"It's important to remember that we do both organs and tissue so there are patients who receive tissue donations as well. Which is the most common? Overall the largest number of patients listed is in the renal [Kidney] transplant, but that includes mostly adults. At the Stollery, we are fortunate to be able to offer all children in Alberta and across Western Canada all solid organ transplants such as heart transplants, lung transplants, liver transplants, pancreas and renal transplants."

Gilmour says the most key factor in determining donor eligibility, is blood type.

"It differs between the various types of transplants that are required. For eligibility between donor and recipient, the blood group must be identical or compatible. As many people might know from television, blood group "O" or "O-" , although we don't need the negative or positive for organs, is the universal donor."

Gilmour says each organ transplant has its own set of specific challenges and requirements but in terms of liver transplants, adults can donate to younger patients if they are a compatible blood group match.

"We are able to use a larger adult donors liver, both living and deceased, using a smaller portion of the liver that would fit in a small child."

Gilmour says she's happy to say the Canadian donor system is well supported.

"We are really pleased to say that for critical organs we have a national sharing system. For children and adults who are really sick and in an intensive care unit, we know from the national statistics, that we will receive an offer from somewhere in Canada 75% of the time within about 24-36 hours. In the pediatric population we are also very fortunate to have an excellent surgical team that does living donor donations and a wonderful living donor program that we are able to work up living donors and proceed to a transplant in a very short period of time, often in a day or two."

For those who are interested in supporting these programs, Gilmour suggests contacting your local hospital.

"The transplant program in the University of Alberta, the Foothills and Alberta Children's hospital have processes and people you can contact, to provide more information. They have a full scope of trained practice nurse coordinators who can speak to people and give them all the information needed to help come to a decision."

Gilmour says that positive impact donors have on recipients lives, cannot be measured.

"Clearly as someone who cares, and has cared for over two decades for children and families with liver and multi visceral transplants, that we truly appreciate our donor families, and the importance of signing your donor card. In what is the darkest hour that families never imagine they will experience, that they can make such a gift, and have such a positive impact on so many peoples lives is huge. It's difficult and hard, but worthwhile and meaningful. We do thank donor families for allowing that conversation to happen."

The latest update on little Lukah Mitchell is she's still hanging on, but needs more than a liver transplant, with her Mom saying she needs a multivisceral organ donor, or a deceased child of roughly the same age to donate all his or her abdominal organs.

 

Read More: Organ Donation Needed for Okotoks Girl

 

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