Jeannette Rogers knows the importance of organ transplants first hand.

“I eventually became too tired to work and discovered that I had hepatitis,” recalls Rogers.

After unsuccessful treatment, Rogers ended up with liver cancer and required a transplant.

“I was listed in March of 2012 and on my third call I got my liver on July 5, 2012,” say says.

Rogers’ operation was through the Multi-Organ Transplant Program at the QEII Health Sciences Centre.

“We do about 100 kidney transplants with again the majority being from deceased donors, but we also do live donor kidney transplants,” says Dr. Ian Alwayn, the surgical lead for the program. “We do about 25 to 30 liver transplants per year, about five to ten hearts, and about five to ten pancreas transplants a year.”

The program isn’t just about the clinical aspects of organ transplant – education is also a big component.

“Education can vary between trying to teach the public about transplantation and organ donation, but also the staff involved in the care,” he says.

Dr. Alwayn says increasing awareness for both the general public and healthcare professionals is crucial.

“If you look at the Atlantic provinces, there’s still a lot of patients who potentially could benefit from a transplant but are either referred too late or not at all,” he says.

Clinical trials and research are always being done to improve the success of the program and patient outcomes. Dr. Alwayn’s research focuses on improving the quality of organs before transplantation – specifically the liver.

The time between retrieval and transplantation can be anywhere from eight to 24 hours.

“I think that that time can best be used by improving its quality or manipulating the solutions it’s being flushed with to increase the outcomes of the transplant.”

Dr. Alwayn says the quality of organs available is declining due to our aging population and high rates of obesity. In obese donors, the liver often becomes fatty and doesn’t perform as well.

“So part of my research is using this technology of ex vivo perfusion, where we hook up the organ to a pump then perfuse it with certain molecules that are known to increase the metabolism of fat, of lipids, and to try to defat a fatty organ,” he explains.

Rogers is grateful she received a healthy liver and believes more research is crucial for others in her situation.

“The more research that is done, the better equipped they are to help people who need transplants,” she says.

Dr. Alwayn says reaching the clinical trial stage is not a quick process, but he is optimistic.