April is National Donate Life Month

Posted by May Thomas in Uncategorized

I have been listed as an organ donor since I was old enough to make that decision and have used my divers license option as the way for me to be listed . This month is National Donate Life Month and I was fortunate enough to be reminded and reeducated on the importance of organ donation at my recent TREC (Tri county Regional Ethics Committee) meeting. I followed this up with research on the topic all which I will share with you in this blog.

Organ transplant need far exceeds organ donation. Currently there are about 115,000  patients awaiting organ transplant. About 8,000 people die yearly due to not getting organ donation in time which equals about 22 people dying a day. Of those needing transplant 82% need a kidney. In fact the first transplant occurred in 1954 and was a kidney transplant from one twin brother to another. Organ donation is when a person allows their organs to be legally removed in life or after death. Living donors can give a kidney, or parts of a liver, lung, pancreas or intestine. Living donors can also give blood, plasma, and marrow.  Deceased donors can donate some or all  of the following organs; 2 kidneys, a liver, 2 lungs, a heart, a pancreas and intestines. Deceased donors can be tissue donors for skin, corneas, veins, heart valves, tendons, ligaments, and bone.

Few people are true organ donor candidates as organ donation can only occur if you die with rapid access to medical care.  Most donors are brain dead at the time of donation. This means they are irreversibly, clinically, and legally dead but on a ventilator and medications to keep the heart beating and blood flowing to the organs. There are only hours for organ donation to transplant to occur. Organ life after death is limited, lungs and heart 4-6 hours, liver and pancreas 24 hours, and kidney 72 hours. Tissue and other donations have a longer life span, corneas 14 days, bone and skin 5 years, and heart valves up to 10 years.

Patients in need of an organ transplant are assessed by a transplant team and if they are accepted as a candidate they are entered on the national registry list. Requirements vary per organ, patient, and transplant team regulations. Priority for an organ transplant once on the list involves; medical urgency (how critically ill the patient is), how long the patient has been on the wait list, blood and tissue type match, size of the organ, immune system match, travel and time distance between donor and recipient, and child vs adult. Once an organ is donated the potential recipient is generated from the national list and the transplant center is then notified. The transplant team then considers the organ for transplant and accepts or declines the organ within an hours time. If the organ is declined by that team it gets offered to the next recipient transplant team and so on until it is matched. 

Advances in transplant that you may now be reading about include face, uterus, and extremities like hands. Anyone without metastatic cancer can be considered as a candidate for organ donation. To become a donor you have to register to be put on the national donor registry list. You can register through checking the box when you get or renew your divers license or official ID,  or register on various organ and tissue donor sites. Some sites you can visit are www.donatelife.net, organdonor.gov, and UNOS.org  to register and or get more information.   Please learn more about the importance of organ donation and consider listing yourself as an organ donor or becoming a living organ donor. Organ donation saves lives!