Organ transplantation is one of the marvels of modern medicine. The need for organ donors is much greater than the number of people who actually donate. More than 28,000 lives are saved every year by organ donors. However, more than 123,000 people in the United States are on the organ transplant waiting list. On average, 21 people die each day while waiting for a match.
The icon on your driver’s license showing that you’re an organ and tissue donor has a much greater impact than many of us realize. One organ donor has the potential to save eight lives and eye and tissue donors can enhance the lives of as many as 50 people. For some people with end-stage organ failure, it is truly a matter of life and death. Add to that the thousands more whose lives can be improved through tissue and cornea donations that can help them move, see and live better.
Many organs and tissues can be donated and transplanted. Organ donation has many positive effects on the donor and recipients who experience the greatest benefit. Even farther-reaching effects outside of the donors and recipients is the impact on families and friends who love and support those in need of a transplant. Organ donation can also be a rewarding and positive experience for the family of the donor. It can help a family work through the grieving process and deal with their loss by knowing their loved one is helping save the lives of others.
People of all ages, races and ethnicities, and even those with pre-existing health conditions can be potential donors. When a person dies, they are evaluated for donor suitability based on their medical history. The most important factor for a successful transplant is a compatible blood type between donor and recipient.
There is a national computerized list of patients waiting for organ donation. When a donor becomes available the computer identifies the best matched recipient for each organ. Some factors considered in matching include compatible blood and tissue types, similar body size, severity of patient illness and time on waiting list. The match for a recipient begins at a local level and moves to a national search if no local match exists. A patient’s financial or celebrity status does not affect the match or give them priority status.
“Organ donation is a personal decision and the ultimate gift one could bestow on another human being,” says Tina Stoebe MS, NPD-BC, CPAN, and Clinical Instructor for nursing professional development at Mather Hospital. “Invest time to become knowledgeable regarding the facts around organ donation so that you can make an educated decision. The most important part of this decision-making process is talking to your family and friends regarding your wishes. One day they may need to speak on your behalf. Ways to be certain that your wishes will be honored include registering on the liveonny.org website and including your wishes surrounding organ donation in your advance directives and any end of life documents,” Stoebe says.
Surveys show that 95 percent of adults in the United States support organ donation. Although most people support donation, one of the biggest obstacles to organ donation is simply getting people to register to become a donor. Start by doing your own research, talk to your family and friends to make your wishes known and register as a donor. It’s easy and can be done online. For more information visit organdonor.gov.
Mather Hospital respects the wishes of donors and family in assisting with the giving the gift of life. We work closely with LiveOnNYto coordinate organ donation. LiveOnNY is accredited by the Association of Organ Procurement Organizations (AOPO) and a member of the United Network for Organ Sharing (UNOS, which oversees the organ transplant waiting list in the United States).