Supporting Donation: Tissue specialist Duncan Cody provides hope to Nova Scotians awaiting life-changing transplants

Duncan Cody, tissue specialist stands in a room of ultra-low freezers at the regional tissue bank lab which helps keep donated tissues viable for transplant
Duncan Cody, tissue specialist stands in a room of ultra-low freezers at the regional tissue bank lab which helps keep donated tissues viable for transplant.

Seven years ago, Duncan Cody was finishing a long-term assignment as a medical lab technologist in cytopathology, and was looking for a new job.

Sifting through the online postings, he landed on a wanted ad for a tissue specialist with NSHA’s regional tissue bank (RTB) in Halifax. Admittedly, he didn’t know exactly what tissue specialists did but the more he read, the more interested he became.

He learned that as a tissue specialist, he’d be supporting some of health care’s most urgent transplant programs, which meant he could help change the lives of hundreds of Nova Scotians each year. That’s all it took. He clicked apply, and the rest is history. 

“I saw potential for growth as a health care professional and the ability to make a true impact,” said Cody. “The fact that I could acquire a new set of unique skills; expand my education while helping people, is what ultimately drew me in and I’m happy it did.”

As a tissue specialist, Cody supports programs like critical care organ donation, bone marrow transplantation, ophthalmology, neurosurgery, plastics, cardiac surgery, orthopedics and dentistry. A key part of donation and transplant, Cody and his team help facilitate the process – ensuring the quality of a tissue from start to finish. 

“Our staff are present at every step of donation and continue to follow grafts after the transplant process,” explained Cody. “That often means working with front line staff to identify potential donors, supporting family members or loved ones in their decision to donate, and running necessary tests and follow-ups like monitoring cultures and blood tests to make sure everything is suitable and safe for those receiving it.”

While some of the more technical aspects of his job are interesting, like working in the lab to help prepare tissues for successful transplants, Cody said it’s the families, donors and loved ones he meets who continue to motivate him every day.

“They always amaze me,” said Cody. “They don’t know me and I’m talking to them on the worst day of their lives. They’re always willing to meet and discuss with me the possibility of giving this gift on behalf of their family member. My job wouldn’t exist without them and it’s incredibly humbling to be part of that experience.” 

Cody says it only take one person to register their decision to donate to enhance the lives of more than 80 people.

Whether giving someone their sight back or helping their heart beat stronger, aiding in a repair that will allow a patient to walk free of pain or saving the life of a burn victim in desperate need – tissue donation gives hope to many who await transplant across the province.

“As someone who sees the benefits of this every day, I just ask that people have the conversation with their families,” said Cody.

“Have the discussion, know their wishes and consider if it’s right for you. This kind of giving is so selfless and inspiring. Your decision to do so will have a lasting impact for those receiving it and their families, now and for many years to come.”

To learn more about organ and tissue donation in Nova Scotia, please visit our Legacy of Life website at www.nshealth.ca/legacy-life.