Regina couple Barb and Glenn Macza were settling into their bed for the evening, discussing upcoming family plans.
“We were giggling and talking about what to do with the grandkids,” said Barb.
Out of the blue, Glenn took his last breath.
“At first, I thought he was joking around…”
She performed CPR until the paramedics arrived. They transported him to the hospital, initially believing he may have had a heart attack.
It was not a cardiac event, but a fatal brain aneurysm.
Barb and Glenn Macza
By the next morning, a neurosurgeon determined there was no hope for recovery—Glenn was brain dead.
“I can’t put into words…. There’s nothing more I can say,” said Macza. “It was a complete shock.”
Barb and Glenn were together 19 years, married for eight. Nothing could have prepared her for her 50-year-old husband’s sudden death.
Macza was also unprepared when she was approached by a transplant co-ordinator who informed her that his organs were viable and asked if Glenn had ever discussed being an organ donor with her.
They hadn’t. Macza did not know what to say. She reached out to Glenn’s sister and his son for guidance.
“One of his sisters was in the medical field and she was very pro-transplant and after talking to Glenn’s son, we did decide to donate his organs.”
Glenn was able to donate multiple internal organs and saved the lives of seven people who were on the transplant waiting list.
Not everyone is eligible to become an organ donor. In fact, only about five per cent of in-hospital deaths can even make organ donation possible and that does not mean they necessarily will lead to donation.
Dealing with the sudden death of her husband and being caught totally off-guard with the question about whether or not to donate Glenn’s organs was heart-wrenching.
“When they start talking to you about your husband; about his tendons and his bone and things…It’s ugly. I stopped at internal organs because in that moment, it would be like there was nothing left of him and I couldn’t face that. But in retrospect, knowing what I know now, I would have donated everything.”
“Being faced with that horrible (checklist of body parts)…It shouldn’t have been a decision I ever had to make. But we did. And I’m glad we donated what we did.”
She never wants others to have to experience the weight and guilt of that uncertainty when faced with that decision.
Barb has had the conversation with her own children, and they’ve discussed what they are and aren’t comfortable donating and she hopes these discussions become more and more common in Saskatchewan. Donation rates in the province lag behind the national average of 21.9 per million population (2017); with Saskatchewan’s rate at 14.6 donors per million.
Macza is looking forward to the launch of the provincial online registry next year, hoping that those numbers will increase.
“That way they can spell out exactly what they want. Which organs, which tendons, bone marrow, eyes. That way there’s a record of it and it takes some of the burden away. It’s also good if people are too shy to talk about it, that way if they should pass away suddenly the family will know their wishes.”
Macza also hopes conversations about becoming a live donor will become more commonplace as well as deceased donation.
Living donors can provide an organ or tissue to a family member or another person in need such as: amniotic membranes, bones (most donated bone comes from hip replacement surgeries), kidney and liver.
Macza feels she made the right decision and is supported by her husband’s family, but doesn’t want others to have to go through such an agonizing decision as she did.
“Talk to your spouse. Talk to your kids. Talk about it. It’s not a taboo subject. It’s amazing how many lives were improved because we donated Glenn’s organs.”
To learn more about organ donation, go to