While Nova Scotia has introduced a bill that would automatically sign residents up to be organ donors, there are no such plans in the works for Quebec but on National Organ and Tissue Donation Awareness Week doctors and past recipients are stressing the importance of giving once you’re gone.

Seven years ago Makar Barsoum received a heart transplant, something he called a “life changing experience.”

“You are basically giving life to somebody you don’t know,” he said. “You can be sure that you are going to change the life of a person.”

According to studies a single donor can save up to eight lives.   

Prosanto Chaudhury, a specialist in transplants at the Royal Victoria Hospita, said people considering donating should speak with their loved ones.

“Whether you want to or not, it’s important your loved ones, your surrogate decision makers know what your wishes are,” he said. “At the time it actually occurs, you won’t be able to express your opinion anymore.”

More than 800 Quebecers are waiting for a donor. In 2018, 164 donors made more than 530 transplants possible but Chaudhury said more needs to be done.

“Over 92 per cent of Quebecers are favourable to organ donations but relatively few have actually taken the concrete step of getting onto the registries,” he said.

Barsoum said getting used to his new lease on life took time.

“My only struggle is to wonder, I’ve been given a second life… it takes time to find out what is the purpose,” he said. “What am I supposed to do with the second act?”

He said he found his answer in volunteering in the community. Every day he thinks of the donor and is grateful, keeping a letter their family wrote to him anonymously through Transplant Quebec.

“The gentleman is always there in my mind,” he said. “It’s one of the best things a person can give back to his fellow humans.”