MSS students encouraged to ‘Give the Gift of Life’ and sign their donor card

M’CHIGEENG—Grade 11 and 12 students at Manitoulin Secondary School (MSS) learned about the importance of signing their donor card and ‘Giving the Gift of Life’ at a special assembly last week organized by one of the students.

Grade 12 student Garret Gauthier organized the assembly in support of his friend and fellow MSS student, Connor Croft, who is in need of an organ transplant.

“When I set up the assembly I had talked to my mom about how I wanted to do something for Connor, so she suggested having someone in and speak on behalf of organ donation,” explained Garret. “I believe that awareness being spread is key to helping people like Connor to be able to receive a kidney or any other organ. Signing your organ donation card is important to help people overcome hardships such as needing a new kidney. It is the biggest gift you can give in life, to save another once you are gone.”

The guest speaker for the assembly was Wikwemikong High School teacher and Island powwow emcee Chris Pheasant who received a liver transplant three years ago.

“This is a hard subject,” said Mr. Pheasant. “You as young people need to make choose, and you can choose to give the precious gift of life.”

Mr. Pheasant explained that anyone 16 years-old and older can register their consent for organ and tissue donation.

He explained that the organs or tissue that can be donated include the heart, kidneys, liver, lungs, pancreas, small intestines, eyes, bone, skin and heart valves.

“Today in Ontario, there are over 1,500 people waiting for a lifesaving organ transplant,” said Mr. Pheasant. “This is their only treatment option and every three days someone will die because they did not get their transplant.”

He said that the average waiting time for a heart is 187 days; 198 days for a lung; liver, 175 days; and 1,804 days for a pancreas.”

“This is my third year, my third birthday since I received the gift of life,” shared Mr. Pheasant. “For me it was very last minute when I received my liver—I felt very fortunate.”

Mr. Pheasant said he was diagnosed with Stage 4 liver disease which effected the valves attached to his liver. “Everyone thinks liver issues are associated with drinking, but I stopped drinking the day my son was born,” he said. “For me it was hereditary—my mom passed away from the same thing.”

He said that prior to his transplant he wasn’t doing well and was flown to London, Ontario. He said that in the last week he wasn’t coherent and that while he was unconscious a liver became available that was a match and his life was saved.

“The gift of life gave me a new lease on life,” said Mr. Pheasant. “I was so grateful. I was also grateful to the people of Manitoulin who pulled together to support me, and donated money to help my family.”

“Sign your card and make a choice,” concluded Mr. Pheasant. “Choose to give the gift of life.”

To register as a donor you can do so online or by visiting a Service Ontario centre. Donation registration is confidential and will not impact one’s medical care. Registration status is only accessed at end-of-life to share a person’s donation wishes with their family. Donation in Ontario is managed by Trillium Gift of Life Network, a not-for-profit agency of the Ontario government.

To learn more or to register, visit