The month of April is nationally recognized as Organ Donor Awareness Month. Here are some statistics to mull over: nearly 100,000 men, women and children are waiting on organs for transplantation in the United States. Of these 100,000 patients, more than 8,000 are in New York and approximately 7,000 of them live in the greater New York metropolitan area.
According to www.organdonor.gov, one organ donor can save up to eight lives. One tissue donor can save and improve the quality of life for up to 50 people. Nationwide, 69 percent of families consent to organ donation, according to “HRSA Breakthrough Collaborative.” Each day an average of 18 people awaiting organs in the United States die because none could be found for them. This means that each year more than 6,000 people die waiting for organ transplants.
Every 13 minutes, a new name is added to the national waiting list for organs. Wondering which organs can be donated? According to Organ Donor Network’s website, people may donate their hearts, kidneys, liver, lungs, pancreas and small intestine depending on their age, pre-existing medical condition and circumstances involving time of death. Tissue may also be donated. Corneas, the middle ear, skin, heart valves, bone, veins, cartilage, tendons and ligaments can be preserved in storage banks. These tissues can be used to restore sight, cover burns, repair hearts, replace veins and mend damaged, connective tissue and cartilage in many recipients. Healthy adults between the ages of 18-60 can donate blood stem cells only if the patient and the blood stem cell donor have a closely matched tissue type or human leukocyte antigen (HLA). These tissues include marrow, peripheral blood stem cells and cord blood stem cells.
Interestingly enough, kidney transplants are the most common surgical transplant procedure over all. During 2007, a record total of 16,622 kidney transplants were performed. Anyone, regardless of age, can be considered a potential organ donor. Each patient is considered and evaluated individually after death has been officially declared. A patient’s personal medical history holds more weight than their age.
Once brain death has been officially declared, organs must be removed fairly quickly, while circulation is still artificially maintained and healthy. Tissue, however, may be removed within 12 to 24 hours.
Organ transplants are overall successful. Vital organs average 80-90 percent and over 90 percent for various types of tissue transplants.
There are specific criteria, when deciding what ill patients will receive available organs. Essentially, organs are placed according to six standard criteria, which are:
1. Severity of illness
2. Time waiting (when were they placed on the list)
3. Blood Type
4. Tissue Type
5. Size (organs must fit properly in the thoracic cavity)
6. Location (placement in the nation goes according to regions. New York is in UNOS Region, therefore when recovering organs in New York, the donor network makes every effort to place them in New York. The number of miles away from the transplant center are included in the patient’s placement criteria on the list.) For those of you interested in becoming an organ donor, there are three steps. First register with your state donor registry, or visit www.organdonor.gov/donor/registry.shtm. Find your state. Most states, but not all have donor registries.
Designate your decision on your driver’s license. Do this when you obtain or renew your license. Consider a donor card now. Carry the donor card with you until you can designate your donation decision.
For additional information, visit The Organ Procurement and Transplantation Network (www.unos.org) or Organ Donor (www.organdonor.gov).
Kerry Barth is a student at West Chester University majoring in professional studies with minors in journalism and health sciences. She can be reached at KB358328@wcupa.edu.