Calgarian relentlessly campaigns to find friend an organ donor

A Calgary man has been on a mission for nine months to find a kidney for a sick friend and he hopes National Organ and Tissue Donation Week, which begins Sunday, will motivate people to sign up to be living donors.

Mohan Balachandran has put up dozens of signs around the city, and handed out bumper stickers to try and find a donor for his friend Sarjoon Abdul-Cader.

"Kidney donor needed. My friend, an award winning scientist suffering from kidney failure. Please call 587-664-HELP," the bumper stickers read.

Abdul-Cader is halfway through his PhD studies at the University of Calgary, but had to stop due to kidney failure. He's currently on home dialysis for about 10 hours a day, and is staring down a 10-year wait for a kidney donor. 

"It's limiting everything. Family happiness, societal involvement, community involvement, education involvement, everything is now limited," he said.

Many people are aware they can sign up to donate their organs after death by ticking a box on their driver's licence, but fewer realize they only need one kidney to live and can donate the second, said Balachandran.

"It's the awareness that's the problem," he said. 

Mike Symington/CBC

Since Balachandran started his campaign, he's heard from other people in need of donors.

If a donor comes forward, they can join Canada's kidney paired donor program. The hope is that if enough people join the program, Abdul-Cader and others stand a better chance of receiving a kidney. 

About 4,500 Canadians are currently waiting for a lifesaving organ transplant. Only one-in-five Canadians have registered their decision to be a donor and about 250 Canadians die each year waiting. 

"There are so many Canadians who are affected by this," said Balachandran.

The paired donor program is filled with donors and patients who need kidneys, who aren't compatible matches. Three times a year a computer algorithm creates as many matched pairs of kidney donors and recipients as possible — meaning that if a donor joins the program without someone they hope to donate to, they could kick off a chain, leading to multiple people receiving kidneys.

Those interested in learning more about becoming a donor can call the living donor program at Calgary's Foothills hospital at 403-944-4635.