Garden growing awareness for organ transplants

Gardens have always been a symbol of life. And now, a local group has come together to organize a “life garden” here as a tribute to organ donors and their families in Rainy River District.
The Multiple Organ Retrieval and Exchange (MORE) life garden, which blooms in a Metro Toronto park, houses transplanted flowers and shrubs that depict the shape, colour, or care of vital organs used for transplants.
Now a local group has been struck to plant a similar garden in the district. And they’re aiming to have the garden in place at La Verendrye Health Centre here next spring.
“It’s an appreciation for the donors and their families,” noted Patti-Jo Reid, a transplant recipient herself, who sits as a provincial rep on the MORE board.
With renovations underway at the hospital, Reid noted it was an opportune time to come forward with the idea. The garden will be placed inside a circular driveway outside the new entrance.
All the flowers planted will represent organs. For instance, a “play with fire” iris and petunias symbolize kidneys because of their shape and colour.
Reid said she has asked the local horticultural society to act in an advisory capacity to design the garden.
There also will be a sign explaining what the garden is all about and what the flowers represent. Reid felt this would heighten awareness about organ transplants and donations.
“I think we have to make people aware that even though you live in Northwestern Ontario, that doesn’t eliminate you as an organ donor,” she said, noting there were processes that enabled organs to be harvested and transported to major centres within hours.
“Just because we live in a fairly isolated area, we’re still able to donate organs,” she stressed.
She also hopes to raise awareness this weekend by handing out information at the door of the Northern Do-it center’s home show at Memorial Arena.
While she said she’s only received positive reaction about the project so far, Reid felt the big obstacle would be fundraising
“If most of [the flowers] we put in there are perennials, then mostly all it’s going to be is maintenance,” she explained.
So far, the group is composed of four families but Reid was hopeful more donor/recipient families would come forward to help out. Anyone interested or wanting more information can phone her at 274-9535.
The MORE program administers the computer system in Ontario that lists patients waiting for transplants and allocates donated organs.
More than 2,500 people in Canada–including 1,200 in Ontario alone–are waiting for vital organ transplants. The majority are waiting for a kidney.
But fewer than 50 percent of Canadians have signed donor cards, and up to 10 percent of the patients in need of a donated organ will die while waiting for it.