Darren Reynes knows the despair that comes with the long wait for an organ transplant.

Reynes was diagnosed as a type 1 diabetic when he was eight. In his twenties, he started dialysis and was put on the wait list for a kidney and a pancreas.

"It was very dark," Reynes remembered. "You become desperate, you cling on to whatever hope there is."

Feeling increasingly worse and facing kidney failure, he started to explore the option of live organ donation.

His wife Michelle was a match.

"That is when the light switch flicked, a kidney that wasn't working to a kidney that was working. It was amazing how much difference you do feel overnight," Reynes said.

He received his kidney transplant in January 2004. In July 2008, he received a pancreas from a deceased donor.

Darren Reynes and family

Now he's asking all Albertans to join the organ donor registry and to discuss their wishes with their families.

"Organ and tissue donation, plain and simple: it saves lives," Reynes said.

There were 464 Albertans on the transplant wait list last year. Twenty-five died waiting.

Dr. Dennis Djogovic is the medical director of the Human Organ Procurement and Exchange Program (HOPE) for northern Alberta.  He says it's important to have the conversation with your friends and family before you have to.

"I’m always in awe of all the families that are able to make that decision at such a difficult time," he said. "Having those conversations ahead of time does take some of the pressure off."

Even joining the registry is not enough to ensure your organs and tissue are donated.

"It is not a consent," Djogovic explains. "It doesn't give us the ability to proceed with donation unless we have family support.

Donors can save up to eight lives and improve the health of more than 75 people.

With files from CTV News Edmonton's Erin Isfeld