Tara Bourque wants to leave her mark on this world, one organ donor registration at a time.
The 21-year-old Sarnia woman is celebrating her ‘Lungaversary’ this week — three years since her double lung transplant — and is marking the occasion with a challenge to the public.
“Everyone celebrates a transplant anniversary in a different way. I wanted to spin mine into an awareness campaign,” said Bourque, a vocal advocate for Cystic Fibrosis, the genetic disease she’s been fighting her entire life. “I thought I’d challenge people to start the conversation about organ donation.”
Bourque created a Facebook event — via her ‘Helping Tara Breathe Easy’ page, a public outlet that has attracted hundreds of followers. It’s allows her to document the ups and downs of living with CF, receiving new lungs, and now coping with chronic transplant rejection.
“I challenge you to start the conversation about being an organ donor with three individuals,” Bourque writes. “Together we can make it so that no one has to wait on the list for a transplant.”
Participants are directed to her personal ‘Be A Donor’ page, where Ontario residents can register, allowing Bourque to tally the number of people who sign up directly through her site.
“Within 24 hours, I got ten more registries,” she said, noting that in three years, her registration drive has recruited more than 600 people. “I’m pretty competitive, so I’ve turned it into a competition with myself.”
In fact, in all of Ontario, Bourque is ranked 9th for recruiting the most registries through the site, not far behind former Premier Dalton McGuinty and MPP Deb Matthews.
“The most common thing I hear from people is, ‘I’m pretty sure I’m registered,’” said Bourque, noting previously signed donor cards are not recorded with the Ministry of Health. “Or they don’t know how to go about checking, or they just don’t get around to doing it.”
Ontario residents can check by visiting www.beadonor.ca.
Sarnia and Lambton County are ranked 21 and 22 respectively, (out of 179 communities) in terms of current organ and tissue donor registration rate, how many active registration drives there are and the increase in registered donors since the last update.
Meanwhile, Bourque remains in what she describes as ‘limbo land.’ Since her 2012 transplant, her lungs went into chronic rejection, operating now at about 25% lung function.
“I’m currently on hold for listing, which means that, if I were to catch a cold or anything did happen, I can enlist. But right now, the doctors are saying my quality of life is OK, so they want to hold off as long as we can,” she said.
Bourque is currently enrolled at Lambton College, and is an active member of the Cystic Fibrosis Sarnia-Lambton Chapter, a small group of volunteers looking to raise funds and awareness towards finding a cure for CF.
“It’s kind of a waiting game of seeing how things pan out,” Bourque said. “I’ve put it in the doctors hands for now.”
To visit Tara’s Facebook Challenge page: search for Helping Tara Breathe Easy
To visit Tara’s personal donor registration page: www.beadonor.ca/tara-bourque