The House proceeded to the consideration of Bill , as reported (with amendments) from the committee.
moved that Bill , be read the third time and passed.
He said: Mr. Speaker, it is my honour to rise to speak to my private member's bill, Bill , at third reading.
For those who may not be familiar with Bill , it is a legislative proposal that would allow Canadians to indicate their interest in being an organ and tissue donor through their annual tax forms. It is just that simple.
Right now, the tax forms can only be used for the collection of taxes. This bill would create a legal exemption, just like that made for Elections Canada, to allow this important question to be added to the tax forms.
If we have any hope of getting these changes to the tax forms implemented in time for the 2019 tax year, we need to move this through both the House now and the Senate early next spring. If we miss that deadline, the Canada Revenue Agency, CRA, will not be able to implement the required changes for another year. We cannot let that happen. We need to get this done quickly.
This bill was unanimously supported at both second reading and committee, and has progressed from its first debate in the House to its last debate in just 23 sitting days. I think that is a record.
I do want to reiterate my sincere thanks to all the parties in the House for showing such support and offering their genuine co-operation to move this proposal forward so quickly. In particular, I must express a great debt of gratitude to the hon. member for for the quick progress of this bill. The bill was not actually scheduled to be back for third reading debate until February 25 of next year, but the hon. member for graciously traded his position in the PMB calendar with me to make this debate possible today and to further ensure that this legislation is passed. I know the member for is a strong supporter of improving Canada's organ and tissue donation system, and his willingness to help prioritize this bill demonstrates that. His graciousness might be proven one day to have resulted in the saving of hundreds of lives. I sincerely thank the hon. member.
I also want to thank all of my colleagues on the health committee who have been vocal, determined and dedicated supporters of this bill. As I said in the health committee the other day, “I have referred to this bill several times as 'my bill', as it stands in my name, but I do want to say that this is really our bill.” It is our bill, because we worked together in committee as a single team to make it a reality. We found a shared goal and a sensible solution, and worked together to make it happen.
I also want to thank the government, yes, the government, for its allocation of $4 million in funding in the recent fall economic statement to facilitate the implementation of this legislation. Governments do not often commit funding ahead of legislation being passed, especially when for a private member's bill by an opposition member of Parliament. The fact that funding has been committed is very much appreciated and signifies an impressive willingness by the government to see this initiative happen.
I must also thank Mr. Terence Scheltema, my assistant here in Ottawa, for his tireless efforts throughout the entire process of this bill. Without him, this bill would not be before us today.
My final thanks go to my friend, Robert Sallows, a double-lung transplant recipient who recently passed away at the age of 31. He was, and always will be, a hero and a true inspiration.
At the health committee last week, we had an opportunity to hear from CRA officials. They told us that for this proposal to be in place for the 2019 tax season, the legislation needs to be passed by early spring. I think that is quite possible, again, thanks to people like the member for .
A few other things became very clear in committee, and I want to talk about them for a moment. First of all, for this initiative to be most effective, the question about organ and tissue donation needs to be placed on the front of the tax form. The committee members made this very clear to the CRA. I was pleased that the CRA has acknowledged this as a priority of Parliament and committed to putting this on the front page.
I also think that the committee process was very informative and allowed the CRA to demonstrate its commitment to making this proposal a reality by working co-operatively with all provinces and territories on this matter.
The path ahead for the CRA will require a lot of work and dedication by many people to make sure this change happens smoothly. In advance, I want to thank all of the CRA employees who will work on this project for their dedication and persistence. I know there will be days of frustration as small details are worked out and circled back and forth in the consultation process with the provinces and territories. However, when the 2019 tax forms come out and thousands, perhaps millions, more donors register, they will know they have played a key role in saving the lives of some of their fellow Canadians. Therefore, I implore the people at the CRA to dig deep on those tough days and push forward to make sure that we get this done as soon as possible with the highest rate of effectiveness. Their work will have purpose and the results will be rewarding.
One other aspect I want to spend a few minutes on is something the bill does not directly address, but is a significant problem in Canada. Research has shown that as many as one in five potential organ and tissue donors has their final wish overturned by their families at their time of death. That is 20% of families who are overturning the wishes of their deceased loved ones. That is just sad. The decision by their families are robbing those in need of a life-saving transplant of a chance to live. To me, this is unconscionable and has to change. We can and must do better.
It is beyond my understanding how we can allow people to die at a rate of five a week, while at the same time burying, incinerating or putting to rest perfectly good organs every single day. My daughters know I want to be an organ donor, and they know I expect them to follow through on this wish.
As the Christmas holidays approach, families will gather in every corner of the country. I encourage willing organ donors to please speak to their families during this time, to make sure their families know that their final wish is to be an organ and tissue donor, and to let them know how they would feel if they were to find out the family failed to honour their wish.
Throughout my organ and tissue donation advocacy work, both here and in Alberta, I have been approached by many people who have donated the organs and tissues of their deceased loved ones. Every single one of them has made it clear to me that they found the ability to donate to someone in need as a very essential part of their grief and healing process. Their ability to find some good in a time of utter grief and loss was profound and everlasting. Without exception, they encouraged me to let other families know that sharing their loved one made accepting their loss so much easier.
Their loss has purpose, and their gift has brought unimaginable relief and joy to another family in need. By honouring the wishes of their loved ones, they have allowed grandparents, mothers, fathers, sisters and brothers to live. Their gift has meant that many parents have not had to see their children die. That is a legacy to leave for their loved ones.
We all have our own reasons for supporting this legislation. Some members in the House are living organ donors, the real heroes among us. Some members here have families in need of a life-saving transplant. Some members themselves, or their family members, have medical conditions that they know one day they might require their getting a life-saving transplant. Other members are able to love, laugh and live with loved ones because they got a life-saving transplant and are still with us here today.
No matter members' reasons for supporting the bill, it is very much appreciated.
Madam Speaker, first, let me thank the member for for introducing his private member's bill and for his tireless and passionate work on this issue. His personal commitment to this and the co-operative way he has worked with MPs from all parties has moved members of the House, as demonstrated by the unanimous all-party support Bill received at second reading.
I would also like to acknowledge the member for for his early advocacy on this issue and his private member's bill and, more recent, Motion No. 189, organ and tissue donation, brought forward by the member for .
Our government understands that organ and tissue donation and transplantation is an important part of our health care system that relies on the generosity of Canadians to give the gift of life. We know many Canadians, when approached, are willing to be a donor, however, reaching them to get that consent is hit and miss.
We all recognize that more work is needed to address the chronic shortages of organ and tissue donations for transplantation across the country. It goes without saying that transplants not only save lives, but also drastically improve the quality of life for the recipients. In some cases, transplants are the only treatment for end-stage organ failure.
The Canadian Transplant Society notes that more than 1,600 Canadians are added to organ wait-list every year. In 2017, more than 4,333 people were waiting for transplants across Canada. That same year, 2,979 organs were transplanted.
Over the past decade, the number of deceased organ donors has gone up by 42%, so that is good news. While that is encouraging, unfortunately, the number of people needing a transplant has also gone up during that same time. In many ways, we are not making progress and many people are continuing to suffer.
Hundreds of Canadians could no longer wait, and did not get a transplant in time. In 2017, 242 people died while waiting for a transplant.
As our population ages, the need for transplants will only increase. Any one of us could one day find ourselves in need of a donation. As I have mentioned before in previous debates on the bill, and I am sorry, I am getting a little emotional, my sons have a very rare genetic condition resulting in serious heart disease. The only option currently for my eldest when his heart fails to pump effectively is to have a heart transplant. I am hopeful for more options in the future through cardiac and transplant research. However, we must do more to ensure Canadians have timely and effective access to the care they need.
That is why the government is standing in support of Bill . By working together, we can improve the organ and tissue donation and transplantation system and ensure that Canadians have timely and effective access to that care.
Bill would enact a provision that would authorize the Canada Revenue Agency to enter into an agreement with a provincial or territorial government to collect information required for establishing or maintaining an organ and tissue donor registry in the province or territory.
Specifically, the CRA would collect and share personal information for individuals who wish to receive information from their provincial or territorial government on becoming an organ or tissue donor. A memorandum of understanding with the willing provinces and territories would need to be signed so the CRA could share information from potential donors. To this end, the CRA would work diligently with provincial and territorial governments to put these agreements in place.
Canadians can be assured that we are committed to improving the organ and tissue donation and the transplantation system.
In the meantime, people need to know that registering to donate is not complicated and that registration can be done at any time. We know one organ donor can potentially save as many as eight lives and a tissue donor can improve the quality of life for up to 75 people. This is the gift of life, not only for the individuals with the serious health problems who are direct beneficiaries, but also for their family members and loved ones.
I want to mention again the significance of this gift of life, as we saw in the Humboldt disaster. I am sure people have heard the stories by the member opposite.
I have my own story in my own community. A vibrant, loving young mother, an inspired teacher, suddenly lost her life when she suffered a stroke. She had signed up to be a donor and was able to give the gift of life and improve the outcomes for eight other people. Out of one family's pain came joy for eight other families who were forever grateful for her final act of kindness.
Living donors who are at the age of majority and in good health can donate a kidney, part of a liver and a lobe of a lung and continue to lead full and rewarding lives. We know that one donor, as I said, can potentially save up to eight lives and improve the quality of life for up to 75 people. Lives are transformed through these miracles.
Canadians can count on this government to continue to improve the organ and tissue donation and transplantation system. To demonstrate this commitment, the announced on October 18, 2018, renewed funding of $3.3 million for the Canadian donation and transplant research program, CDTRP. This funding allows the CDTRP to continue its research to advance organ and tissue donation and transplantation in Canada. It is through research that we can increase the availability of transplants for Canadians and transform clinical outcomes for transplant patients from coast to coast. It is absolutely incredible what is being done in research institutions in Canada.
I had the opportunity to see the work being done in Toronto at the Peter Munk Cardiac Centre. They were working on keeping a cow's heart alive outside of the body for weeks, which would provide an opportunity to do external repairs to fix damaged organs and potentially allow for treatments that would not be possible implanted in a body. This is most promising research to be able to make best use of all the organs donated, as many get rejected due to defects or disease.
Our government is committed to supporting Bill . We will collaborate with the provinces and territories upon royal assent to implement this legislation as quickly as possible to be in place for the beginning of the 2019 tax filing season.
Madam Speaker, I am pleased to stand on behalf of the New Democratic Party of Canada. All my colleagues in our caucus and I offer our support to this important bill.
Canada's New Democrats believe that we must make every possible effort to ensure that every Canadian who needs an organ or tissue transplant receives it. We know that one donor could save up to eight lives and benefit more than 75 people, yet at 18 donors per million people, Canada's current donation rate puts us in the lower third of developed countries. Therefore, I particularly welcome this bill as an attempt to try to remedy that unfortunate state of events, because allowing Canadians to register as an organ donor through their tax returns will no doubt help increase registration rates, improve consent rates and help build a donation culture in Canada.
By way of background, Canadians are currently dying on wait-lists because our organ donation rate is so unacceptably and unnecessarily low. At present, only 20% of Canadians have joined their province's organ and tissue registry. Provinces like Ontario are taking steps to make it easier by asking about organ donations on health card and driver's licence renewals, which has increased registration. However, even with everything in place, some 20% of families refuse to transplant a registered donor's organs.
In its recent study on organ donation, the House of Commons Standing Committee on Health learned that of the 4,492 Canadians currently on the wait-list, 260 died waiting for an organ in 2016. In order to better meet that demand, improved coordination across provinces and territories is absolutely required.
Bill , the bill before the House, allows the federal government to coordinate with provinces and territories to allow Canadians to register as organ donors through their federal tax filing. In this case, individuals would be required to consent to the sharing of their information before the agency would share that information with the provincial and territorial levels of government for the purpose of receiving information that hopefully would result in their being added to an organ donor registry.
I pause here to say that, in my view, it would be better if there was a box on everybody's tax return that taxpayers could check off to directly indicate they want to be a donor and the information would go straight to an actual organ donor registry. That is not what this bill does; however, in my opinion, it is worthy of support, because I think it will improve the situation, but I think that a more direct portal and a national registry is ultimately a better way to go.
Of course, this bill aligns with the long-standing advocacy and legislative work of New Democrat members of Parliament around organ donation. This bill is essentially a version of a previous proposal to create what I just referred to, a pan-Canadian organ donor registry, that would coordinate and promote organ donation throughout Canada. That bill had previously been introduced seven times both by Liberals and New Democrats. Judy Wasylycia-Leis, a New Democrat member of Parliament from Winnipeg, introduced a bill in 2002, 2003 and 2008. Malcolm Allen, who was a New Democratic Party member of Parliament from Welland, introduced a bill in 2009 and 2013. Unfortunately, of those five times that New Democrats have introduced bills to set up a pan-Canadian organ donation registry, neither the Conservative nor Liberal governments have ever taken up that excellent idea that would save lives.
I want to share some facts with members and any of the Canadian public who might be watching this debate.
While 90% of Canadians support organ donation in concept, less than 20% have made plans to donate. Unlike the United States, Canada does not have a centralized list of people waiting for an organ. The current Liberal government voted against a bill in 2016 that would have supported the creation of a national registry to align with the United States to help identify those wishing to donate an organ and those who need them.
That leaves us with a patchwork of provincial and territorial systems, the efficiency of which varies greatly from province to province. In the case where someone dies outside of the province where the individual is registered for organ donation, it is unlikely that the hospital would be able to identify the individual as a donor. This is one of the reasons that a centralized national registry is so much better.
Online registration is available in only five provinces: my province of British Columbia, Ontario, Alberta, Manitoba and Quebec. Even if someone is registered as a donor, the family always has the final say. In Ontario, about one in five registered organ donors have their wishes overridden by family members, according to a 2016 report in the Canadian Medical Association Journal.
To put this into perspective, for every patient in Canada who does receive an organ transplant, there are two more on the wait-list. In 2016, over 4,500 people were waiting for organ transplants, 2,800 organs were transplanted and, again, 260 people died waiting for a transplant that never came.
In the past 10 years, the number of deceased organ donors has gone up, but the number of people needing a transplant has also gone up. In fact, over 1,600 Canadians are added to organ wait-lists yearly. While most Canadians consent to donate after death, it is also possible to donate organs while one is still alive. Living donors who are the age of majority and in good health can donate a kidney, part of their liver or even a lobe of their lung. About 1% of Canadians who die in hospital donate an organ, but 99% do not, which works out to about 18 per million, about half the rate in countries such as Spain, which is 34 per million, and the United States at 26 per million.
I want to talk about the presumed consent system, because that is why countries like Spain and other European countries have organ donation and transplant rates that are twice as high as Canada's. It is because they have moved to a presumed consent system, which means that every citizen is presumed to consent to be an organ donor unless they choose otherwise. Individual choice, of course, is respected, but it vastly increases the pool of people who are available for organ donation.
The truth is, as I said earlier, over 90% of Canadians agree with the concept of organ donation, but it is difficult or confusing for them to know how to do that, and so most of those wishes go unexpressed. However, if we changed our system to a presumed consent system, we would have the best of all worlds. We would still respect individual choice for those who, for a variety of reasons, do not want to donate, but we would vastly increase the number of organs and tissue available for donation and hence save the lives of so many more Canadians who are waiting for an organ transplant.
It is funny that Canada is the only developed country without national organ donation legislation such as the 1984 U.S. National Organ Transplant Act. The comments that I am making were borne out repeatedly when we studied this bill at committee, and I will read some of the comments we received from people with respect to a national database.
Dr. Norman Kneteman, professor and director, Division of Transplant Surgery at the University of Alberta said that:
...the Canadian Transplant Registry that CBS has built is in place; the computer system exists. The challenge is how we get the information into it. In Canada, all the reporting and transplant and donation in our history has been voluntary, and because of that, it's full of defects; it's not reliable. We have to get beyond that, and we need to be thinking about how we are going to fund the activity of getting the information into the database so the professionals, the researchers...have something to work with.
The Kidney Foundation of Canada backed that up. It said:
Currently, there is a lack of data concerning missed donor opportunities in Canada, which stems from inconsistency in the frequency, methods, and scope of data collection between jurisdictions. Furthermore, this data is not centrally accessible to patients on the waitlist, researchers, clinicians, administrators, or policy makers. Current Canadian approaches to measurement and reporting of potential donor identification and referral are fragmented and lack consistency, timeliness and accessibility of information.
It is rare that one can identify a policy response to a problem that is so obvious and achievable. We need a national organ donor registry in this country. We need a presumed consent system in this country. Why? It is because those two policy initiatives have been identified by all the stakeholders and all the experts. We know that it will increase organ and tissue donation in Canada and save lives. The New Democrats will continue to work towards those ends.
Madam Speaker, the issue of organ and tissue donation has come up for debate in the House on a number of occasions, and I have found that the debate on this subject invokes more emotion than debates on other subjects, and in a very positive way.
Whether it is the sponsor of this bill or other members who have had the opportunity to address the issue, I have witnessed that it is a very personal issue. I really do appreciate members' willingness to share their stories and thoughts and I recognize their passion.
I am sure the sponsor of the bill has listened very carefully to what has been said. I want to compliment his willingness and co-operative approach in trying to pass legislation that concerns an important issue to all Canadians.
I was a health critic in the province of Manitoba. Every so often the issue of organ donation would come up. It was an issue of utmost importance, and one on which there was lobbying. At the time, provincial MLAs said that something needed to be put on driver's licences, that maybe people should have to opt out as opposed to opt in to organ donation. All sorts of ideas were put forward as to how we might get more people to participate in organ donation.
I did a quick search on Google to get a better sense of organ donation. Well over 50 lives can be directly affected through the untimely passing of an individual who made the commitment to organ donation. The individual's passing could contribute to 50-plus lives being saved in a profound and positive fashion. When I say “positive”, I mean it could be anything from a life-saving heart transplant to a tissue transplant. The recipient might not be in a life-threatening situation but the donation of either an organ or tissue would be very important to him or her.
I want to emphasize to those who might be following this debate that we need to work with different jurisdictions. There are certain aspects of this for which the provinces and territories should be at the table. It is important to recognize, as the member across the way has done, that Ottawa needs to play a strong leadership role. My New Democrat friend referenced the importance of having a national registry. That may be something we could strive for.
On a Saturday a few weeks back, I met with a constituent at a local restaurant. The individual was virtually in tears when he talked about his niece who needed an organ donation. She had lived in Winnipeg but had moved to another province. It is hard to think of a young 15-year-old or 16-year-old girl with so much potential having to plead for help. She lives in Alberta and there are special circumstances surrounding the situation. My daughter, who happens to be an MLA, became engaged in the situation. We appealed through some media outlets for help and we are hoping and praying that the appeal will be successful.
There are far too many examples I could cite. I suspect that if we were to canvass all 300-plus members of Parliament, we would hear some very personal stories about how individuals could be assisted, lives could be saved and so forth.
I truly believe that we are moving forward, but not nearly as fast as we could be on this particular issue. I would like a bigger commitment to co-operate and facilitate something that would be in the national interest in terms of having a data bank from coast to coast to coast. That is ultimately what we should strive to achieve. However, we should not kid ourselves. It is not easy.
If members do a quick search on the Internet, they will find that different provinces have different approaches. If someone on Prince Edward Island needs a liver or another organ, that person, and his or her family, wants to know that whatever can be done is being done and that it goes far beyond the boundaries of Prince Edward Island. That is something we should strive for. Obviously, there are things in place to assist someone from P.E.I., but it is not as simple as it should be.
The point is that we need more organization, co-operation and collaboration among the different partners. I am referring to the provinces, territories and the federal government. That is what we need on the one hand. On the other hand, we need promotion to make the public more aware. We could talk about the statistics. There is no doubt that in Canada, we could do a lot better in terms of getting more people engaged by stressing how they could impact the lives of others by checking off a box.
Organizations have gone out of their way to simplify the process. For example, in the province of Ontario, there are websites that are very simply designed. It is easy to navigate the system to register. There is a national website. Those who may be following the debate can go to the national website, which links to the many provincial websites so that no matter where people happen to live, they can become directly engaged.
Some of the best known contributions are through blood banks. We talk about the G7 and western countries. In terms of Canada's participation in blood banks and organ and tissue donation, Canada does not fare very well. It is purely guessing on my part that one of the primary reasons is that we do not have a coordinated approach with the different stakeholders. I believe that could ensure that we have the ideal list. We need promotional campaigns and recruitment drives.
There has to be consent. All parliamentarians recognize the importance of consent. To that degree, it is getting people to buy in and provide their consent the best way we can.
I appreciate what the member is attempting to do and hope that at some point, the bill will pass.
Madam Speaker, it is a pleasure to rise to speak to Bill . I want to start by congratulating the member for for bringing the bill forward to the House of Commons and doing it in a manner that sought the support and input of many Canadians, and members of the House as well.
The bill itself recognizes the value of organ and tissue donation and transplantation and the important role that plays in protecting the health and safety of Canadians. I think all of us at some point or other in our lives have known people who have been confronted with that situation, whether a family with a loved one who is on a wait-list, or someone else needing an essential organ or transplant for their future survival and ability to continue to live a good quality life, or a family that has to deal with the grief of losing a family member and is faced with a difficult decision at the time of their sudden death. That cannot be easy. I think we have all heard of many of these stories and situations.
The bill allows people to reflect upon their own lives and those of others around them. It gives them the opportunity to make a very important decision on what will happen to their organs and tissues upon their death, so those kinds of decisions are not left to others and family members at a time of tremendous grief.
My colleague, the member for, who spoke earlier was very emotional in her speech, but was certainly able to relate to this particular situation in a way that many of us cannot. She talked about her own family and how this issue has hit the heart of it, with the emotional decisions and trauma of having a family member who might need an organ transplant at some point, and their reflections on that decision. Obviously, this bill will go to heart of what many Canadians and many families might face in this difficult situation they might face in the future.
We also know that the bill before us today is one of the pieces of legislation the and our government have been following through on in their mandate. The minister has been working with provinces and territories on this very legislation to try to facilitate some collaboration, some partnership, across the country when it comes to an organ and tissue donation and transplantation system that would give Canadians timely and effective access to the kind of care they need.
I think most of us who listened to our colleague from the NDP cite the statistics of the numbers of people currently on wait-lists for organ and tissue donations and transplantation and of those who have died waiting can agree that far too many people are still on those wait-lists.
We can also agree that far too many Canadians die waiting, waiting for organ and tissue transplants that are necessary for them to continue to live and have a good quality of life.
I do not think any Canadian wants that to happen. It is all our responsibility to allow for a system that will ensure more people become organ donors, that there is a system in place to allow those who need transplants to get them. It is all our responsibility as Canadians that if we can bring life to someone, we bring life to that person.
In my riding, I have a very close friend and a family that went through such an experience. The family was faced with the decision upon the death of its son, which was very sudden, on whether to donate his organs for transplantation. That was a difficult decision, one I cannot even imagine. At a time when his parents were already shocked, heartbroken and in despair, they made a decision that their son's organs would be donated and used for transplantation.
Just recently, they had the opportunity to meet an individual who received one of those organs, an individual who today is enjoying a good quality of life, bringing joy to his family, to his grandchildren, watching his grandchildren and his children continue to grow and be a part of their lives.
As difficult as it was for her, her husband and her daughter at that time, knowing that in some way their son had been able to give this gift of life helped them through what had been one of the most tragic and difficult situations in their lives. It has helped them look at grief in a different way.
It was probably a couple of weeks ago when I was listening to CBC Radio's The Current one morning. She was on the radio, talking about this situation and so was the recipient who had received the heart as part of that donation. It was one of the saddest yet most inspiring stories I had heard in a very long time.
I do not think any of us wish for any family to be placed in that situation. By allowing this as a question, as a part of the Canada Revenue Agency work that it does through the application process, in reaching out to all Canadians, creating that awareness and allowing Canadians to make that decision to become a donor, we not only give them a sense of comfort in the decision they make, but we give their families a sense of comfort as well. Hopefully, at the end of the day, we are able to bring light to more Canadians who need it.
I am happy to support Bill . I know many members of the House will, including government members. I am proud of the fact that as a government we have already stepped up to do many of the things outlined in the bill. In addition, we have been able to invest more into research related to transplantation, this year it is $100 million additional, to ensure these transplantations are successful.
We are continuing to work with research agencies, with science, along with families to ensure we can improve the system of organ and tissue donation in Canada.
Madam Speaker, I am extremely pleased to rise today in support of Bill . I would like to thank the member for for bringing this forward.
One of my friends once told me that the best speeches are given from the heart, that it is not about great notes or somebody who writes us a good speech. My speech today is coming from the heart. I am going to tell a little story about Nick. I did speak to Nick and I asked him if I could speak in the House on why this was so important and why it was important to him.
I first met Nick 21 years ago when he showed up at my door with my oldest son. He was an eight year old. As soon as he walked into the house, I noticed he was coughing. I asked him if had a really bad cold and he said, no, that he had a chronic disease called cystic fibrosis and because of that he had a hard time breathing and a lot of digestive problems. He explained the whole disease to me. Nick became a huge part of our lives. He was my son's best friend through his whole time growing up.
Nick's medication was kept in our cupboards. Oftentimes Nick would spend the night and he needed it to survive. Nick would come to the cottage with us and he would bring his breathing machine and his medications, but he never let it slow him down. There were a couple of times as Nick was growing up that he ended up in intensive care in the Halifax hospital because of his condition. A number of times we sat our son down, because they were very close, they had been friends since they were very young, and we told him we did not know if Nick would get out of the hospital. We had those conversations and we always knew it was a possibility. It was always really tough, when dealing with a young child and our own kids, trying to explain to them that this could happen.
Nick was amazing. He continued to beat the odds and he got out of the hospital both times. I remember when the Children's Wish Foundation asked him what his wish would be. Unfortunately, at that point in his life, he was very sick. He said that what he really wanted to do was make memories with his best friends. Therefore, Nick, my son and one of their other friends went to the big city for the weekend. The foundation gave them money to go shopping. They went to movies, ate steaks and they made memories. To this day, at 29 years old, when they get together, they still talk about it. It was just such a wonderful thing.
However, as everyone else was moving on, going to school and getting degrees, Nick was struggling more and more as he got older. Nick continued to go to university. He would oftentimes go for a semester and then have to take a semester off because he was too sick to continue. His dream was to become an architect. He continued to go to university and then he would take time off because of his health.
About a year and a half ago, Nick got very sick. I remember talking to him and him saying to me, “It's like I'm breathing through a straw”. If we think about that, how would that feel? Every breath we take and feeling like we are breathing through a straw.
Nick was put on the waiting list for a double lung transplant and he continued to deteriorate. One of the challenges for individuals who are that sick is having to deal with this. We live in a province that does not do transplants. Nick had to go to Toronto to have this transplant. His family needed $20,000 to be raised in our community in order for him to live there while he waited. Unfortunately, Nick ended up in intensive care on life support, waiting, because he was failing so badly.
However, this is a great news story. In July, Nick got a double lung transplant. It was a 10-hour surgery. He was on life support before the surgery. He is doing great. He is out of the hospital. He is back home. He says that he will never take for granted every breath he takes. One of the things he is also very cognizant of is that somebody else died in order for him to have the transplant.
It took almost two years for him to get a lung transplant. It is so important for us to sign donor cards and to ensure we have bills like this that will encourage more people to become donors so people like Nick are not left waiting for two years.
I am really pleased Nick is doing as well as he is. I want to thank the member opposite for the bill. It is very important that we continue to support these initiatives, that we continue to work with the provinces and territories and ensure we play a leadership role in transplants, ensuring they are available to people.
It would be great if there were some way we could also support people financially so the communities do not have to raise as much money to send people to places like Toronto for their surgeries.