SURREY — Scotty Schumann’s new year’s resolution is to do more volunteer work in 2018, in memory of his sister.
Schumann, a Surrey RCMP corporal who serves as the detachment’s spokesperson, lost his younger sister, Andrea, to a brain aneurysm last September. Her death was sudden, her condition undiagnosed. The 48-year-old single mother left behind two sons, aged 18 and 20.
“My sister was able to donate her organs, and several recipients benefited from her gift,” Schumann told the Now-Leader.
“In her spirit I intend to support BC Transplant to raise awareness and register organ donors as a donor family member.”
|Andrea Schumann, a Surrey resident and mother of two sons, died of a brain aneurysm in September. She was 48. (Submitted photo)|
Andrea, a Surrey resident who worked for WestJet at Vancouver International Airport, collapsed one day in early September.
“She was essentially almost brain-dead immediately,” Schumann recalled. “The next day, she was pronounced deceased, legally, and then (one day later) she went in for surgery to have her organs removed.”
Andrea was among the more than 1.1 million registered organ donors in British Columbia, a province where 643 people wait for the gift of such a donation, according to the latest numbers from BC Transplant, which “provides oversight for all aspects of organ donation and transplantation across B.C.”
“It just so happened that (Andrea) was a registered donor, but BC Transplant meets with (the family) before the process and gets their input, their feedback,” Schumann noted.
“You could be a (registered) organ donor but if your family puts up a big stink about it, they will consider whether or not they’ll take your organs,” he explained. “They definitely consult the family, and similarly, if you weren’t a registered donor, they would consult you – you know, ‘Hey, what do you think, can we do this?’ That sort of thing. They usually look for permission from the closest relatives. So in my case, between myself, my sister’s two boys and my mom and dad, we made a decision (to donate) right away, to support that.”
No question, it’s kind of a surreal process to go through, he said.
“I mean, you’re dealing with the death, the grief, first of all, you’re in a fog, but they have people from BC Transplant come and meet you, and they’re fantastic,” Schumann said. “They go into great detail telling you about the process, but they’re also very good at listening and providing anecdotal stories and helping families make their decision. That’s what they do. It’s very interesting, the process.”
Andrea donated both of her eyes, her lungs, her liver and her kidneys, according to her brother.
“It’s absolutely amazing,” he said. “With her eyes, they told us that four people are going to have their eyesight restored as a result of her donation, which is fantastic. One of the main parts they were using is the whites of her eyes, so I guess if you have cancer in your eyeball, the white part, the only treatment is to take it out, and if you take it out, you lose your sight. But if you can replace it with donor material, then that sight can be restored, which is quite amazing.”
Something else BC Transplant facilitates is meetings with organ donation recipients, “so they’re almost like an adoption agency,” Schumann said.
“If we reach out to BC Transplant and say we want to meet the recipients, and if the recipients do the same, wanting to meet the donors, they make it happen,” he explained.
“The general rule is, you can’t reach out for approximately a year because you have to give the recipients time to heal and make sure the organ is not rejected,” Schumann said.
”For reasons unknown to us, one of the recipients has already reached out to our family. We haven’t had contact with them yet, but the process is in the works, and we’re all very excited about meeting whoever it may be.”
In 2017, more than 448 people received a life-saving transplant in British Columbia, according to BC Transplant.
As of Feb. 26, 2017, every British Columbian visiting an ICBC driver licensing location will be asked to register their decision about organ donation.
“Fifty per cent of British Columbians believe they have registered a decision on organ donation but, in fact, only 21 per cent have,” according to BC Transplant. “For this reason, last year ICBC ran a pilot in four locations where staff provided information about organ donation to customers and encouraged them to register their decision. Over 15,000 customers registered their decision on organ donation as a result of the pilot.”
A donor needs to register just once in a lifetime, “but a decal on your driver’s licence is no longer enough to ensure you’re registered as an organ donor,” the agency notes. “Register your decision at register.transplant.bc.ca or call 1-800-663-6189.”