Paramedics, police train to flag tissue donors outside of hospital

A thousand first responders were equipped with the knowledge needed to flag potential donors who die outside of the hospital and often get overlooked

By EMS1 Staff

OTTAWA, Canada — Paramedics and police officers were trained on how to recognize tissue donors who die outside of the hospital.

CBC reported that 500 paramedics and 500 police officers were given the knowledge needed to flag a donor after Ottawa Police Sgt. Steven Desjourdy realized how many opportunities for donated tissue — which includes eyes, skin and bone —were lost among out-of-hospital deaths, such as at a vehicle crash scene. 

"It started with a simple conversation with a coroner at a scene," Desjourdy said. "She said, 'Oh, this is a potential tissue donor.’”

Desjourdy said he didn’t realize at the time that tissue donors were different than organ donations in that the tissue can be donated up to 12 hours after a donor’s death. He contacted the Trillium Gift of Life Network to work out a plan.

"I said, 'I'm sure we can do something to make this quicker and faster. Let's work as a team.'"

Paramedics and police officers will now alert the coroner or the Trillium Gift of Life Network to potential donors. They must be under the age of 76 and the time of death must be known.

"We're continuing to do all of our life-saving efforts to do our best to get that patient alive and breathing again," Sue Noel, superintendent of clinical training for paramedics, said. "If we can't, it's nice to know now that we have something to offer that family and that patient."

Noel added that the training is already producing results.

"We don't often get to see how our patients end up. Now when I let paramedics know, 'Hey, your phone call resulted in a tissue donor and somebody is now able to see again because you made a phone call,' they're very excited about it,” she said.


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