Every day, 77 people receive an organ transplant that allows them a second chance at life, but 19 others die waiting for a donated organ. April is “Donate Life Month” and education is the key to making everyone aware of the importance of being an organ donor. More than 94,000 people across the nation are on waiting lists to receive an organ. Approximately 300 new transplant candidates are added to the list each month. Everyone who registers as an organ donor helps bring that number down.
An easy way to become an organ donor is to label yourself as one on your driver’s license. There is no additional fee to have “Organ Donor” placed on your card. For those who are currently not a donor, but are interested in becoming one, there is a form at the DMV that can be filled out.
Be aware that while a label on a driver’s license is important, it does not make organ donation official. Family and next-of-kin will be consulted before any organs or tissues are recovered, and their wishes will be honored. Remember to talk to family and let them know of your wishes.
According to donatelife-pa.org, 43.2 percent of Pennsylvanians have indicated that they are organ donors on their driver’s licenses. Out of the 62 counties in Pennsylvania, Chester County ranks second for percentage of drivers who said “yes” to organ and tissue donation on thier liscense.
Possible organs that can be donated for transplantation include hearts, kidneys, lungs, intestines, bone, skin and corneas. In terms of numbers, kidneys and corneas are needed most by patients. In terms of lifesaving ability, hearts, lungs and livers are needed the most. There are no age restrictions on who can donate. Everyone from newborns to the elderly is eligible, and people of all ages are in need of organs.
“I believe that if my body can be used to save someone’s life then that’s the right thing to do,” junior Lauren Gardner said.
One concern of people who are hesitant to donate is the thought of their body being mutilated after death. The truth is, donated organs are removed surgically in a routine operation similar to gallbladder or appendix procedures. Donation doesn’t disfigure the body.
Another concern is the thought that doctors won’t try as hard to save a person’s life if they know that person is an organ donor. This is a myth. Doctors work to save all lives, not just those who need transplants. The medical team that treats patients is separate from the transplant team. No one will wake up in a bathtub tub full of ice and find that a kidney has been removed.
Health issues do not stop someone from being an eligible donor. Appropriate health care professionals will review medical histories of donors and be able to determine whether or not someone can be a donor. Excessive amounts of alcohol and cigarette use may prevent someone from being able to donate their liver and/or lungs, but not other organs.
The factors considered when deciding who gets an available organ starts with the severity of the illness and how long they have been on the waiting list. Other factors include blood type, tissue type, and location. That means when organs are recovered in a certain state, the transplant team makes every effort to place them in that state.
Over 6,500 people in Pennsylvania are waiting lifesaving transplants. You can help.