Thursday, April 16, 2009

You have the power to donate life.

I am not sure when or why I decided to become an organ donor, but I am. I actually did a persuasive speech on it in college and wish I could find the video to post that I used. Nothing like doing a speech and using a video to help take up some of the five minutes I was required to speak. Yeah, I got an ‘A’ in the class. What did you expect? Wait, don’t answer that.

About 14 or 15 years ago, my father was told that he was born with only one kidney. Imagine being in your mid-forties, and come to find out that you are missing a vital organ.

It was late October last year, when I received a call from my Mom that my Dad was going to have emergency surgery. Not the news you want to ever hear, let alone when they are 15 hours away by car. Apparently he hadn’t felt well for a day or so and went in to see the doctor. Being a man, it must have gotten bad, because you know we only go to the doctor under dire emergencies. Well, to the ER they sent him. Tests came back that he had kidney stones that had blocked his kidney and his body was starting to shut down from the poison. Yeah, don’t ask me all the specifcs, I just know it was close enough where dialysis came into the conversation. After the surgery, the doctor told him he was extremely lucky. Nothing wrong with a little luck every now and then. In my own mind, I call it an act of God.

The surgery was a temporary fix, and then a few weeks later he would have to have undergo procedure where they ‘blast’ the stones in hopes that they pass. There are risks and one of the risks it that it could’ve ruined the kidney all together. Using the word, ‘could’ve,’ should give you every indication that it turned out alright.

However, it got me thinking. My dad and I both have the same rare blood type, so would there be a chance that he might need one of my own kidneys? Wow. I had never given a thought of being a living donor, but would certainly do it in a heart beat. I worried for several days, but it never surfaced with my parents in conversation, only in my head and with my best friend.

If you are wondering where I am going with all of this, April is National Donate Life Month. I am purposing that you give some thought to organ donation. If you have, great, if not, please do so. I would also encourage you to make sure that those closest to you, know EXACTLY how you feel about it, or go as far as to have something written. No one wants those types of pressures of deciding what to do, if you are already in a state of denial over losing a loved one. Imagine… you have the power to donate life. Contrary to belief, just signing a donor card or drivers license does not guarantee your organs will be donated.

Will you take control of your power?


Although there have been advances in medical technology and donation, the demand for organ, eye and tissue donation still vastly exceeds the number of donors. For more information, read the summary below or create a detailed data report on the UNOS Web site.
• Almost 100,000 men, women and children currently need life-saving organ transplants.
• Every 12 minutes another name is added to the national organ transplant waiting list.
• An average of 18 people die each day from the lack of available organs for transplant.
• In 2005, there were 7,593 deceased organ donors and 6,895 living organ donors resulting in 28,108 organ transplants.
• In 2005, 44,000 grafts were made available for transplant by eye banks within the United States.
• Approximately 1,000,000 tissue transplants are performed annually.
• According to research, 98% of all adults have heard about organ donation and 86% have heard of tissue donation.
• 90% of Americans say they support donation, but only 30% know the essential steps to take to be a donor.

Organ donation: Don't let these 10 myths confuse you

Myth No. 1. If I agree to donate my organs, my doctor or the emergency room staff won't work as hard to save my life. They'll remove my organs as soon as possible to save somebody else.
Reality. When you go to the hospital for treatment, doctors focus on saving your life — not somebody else's. You'll be seen by a doctor whose specialty most closely matches your particular emergency. The doctor in charge of your care has nothing to do with transplantation.

Myth No. 2. Maybe I won't really be dead when they sign my death certificate. It'll be too late for me if they've taken my organs for transplantation. I might have otherwise recovered.
Reality. Although it's a popular topic in the tabloids, in reality, people don't start to wiggle a toe after they're declared dead. In fact, people who have agreed to organ donation are given more tests to determine that they are truly dead than are those who haven't agreed to organ donation.

Myth No. 3. Organ donation is against my religion.
Reality. Organ donation is consistent with the beliefs of most religions. This includes Catholicism, Protestantism, Islam and most branches of Judaism. If you're unsure of or uncomfortable with your faith's position on donation, ask a member of your clergy. Another option is to check the federal Web site, which provides religious views on organ donation and transplantation by denomination.

Myth No. 4. I'm under age 18. I'm too young to make this decision.
Reality. That's true, in a legal sense. But your parents can authorize this decision. You can express to your parents your wish to donate, and your parents can give their consent knowing that it's what you wanted. Children, too, are in need of organ transplants, and they usually need organs smaller than those an adult can provide.

Myth No. 5. I want my loved one to have an open-casket funeral. That can't happen if his or her organs or tissues have been donated.
Reality. Organ and tissue donation doesn't interfere with having an open-casket funeral. The donor's body is clothed for burial, so there are no visible signs of organ or tissue donation. For eye donation, an artificial eye is inserted, the lids are closed, and no one can tell any difference. For bone donation, a rod is inserted where bone is removed. With skin donation, a very thin layer of skin similar to a sunburn peel is taken from the donor's back. Because the donor is clothed and lying on his or her back in the casket, no one can see any difference.

Myth No. 6. I'm too old to donate. Nobody would want my organs.
Reality. There's no defined cutoff age for donating organs. Organs have been successfully transplanted from donors in their 70s and 80s. The decision to use your organs is based on strict medical criteria, not age. Don't disqualify yourself prematurely. Let the doctors decide at your time of death whether your organs and tissues are suitable for transplantation.

Myth No. 7. I'm not in the greatest health, and my eyesight is poor. Nobody would want my organs or tissues.
Reality. Very few medical conditions automatically disqualify you from donating organs. The decision to use an organ is based on strict medical criteria. It may turn out that certain organs are not suitable for transplantation, but other organs and tissues may be fine. Don't disqualify yourself prematurely. Only medical professionals at the time of your death can determine whether your organs are suitable for transplantation.

Myth No. 8. I would like to donate one of my kidneys now, rather than wait until my death. But I hear you can't do that unless you're a close family member of someone in need.
Reality. While that used to be the case, it isn't any longer. Whether it's a distant family member, friend or complete stranger you want to help, you can donate a kidney through certain transplant centers.
If you decide to become a living donor, you will undergo extensive questioning to ensure that you are aware of the risks and make sure you're giving away your kidney out of pure goodwill and not in return for financial gain. You will also undergo testing to determine that your kidneys are in good shape and that you can live a healthy life with just one kidney.
You can also donate blood or bone marrow during your lifetime. Contact your local chapter of the American Red Cross for details on where you can donate or sign up.

Myth No. 9. Rich, famous and powerful people always seem to move to the front of the line when they need a donor organ. There's no way to ensure that my organs will go to those who've waited the longest or are the neediest.
Reality. The rich and famous aren't given priority when it comes to allocating organs. It may seem that way because of the amount of publicity generated when celebrities receive a transplant, but they are treated no differently from anyone else. In fact, the United Network for Organ Sharing (UNOS), the organization responsible for maintaining the national organ transplant network, subjects all celebrity transplants to an internal audit to make sure the organ allocation was appropriate.

Myth No. 10. My family will be charged if I donate my organs.
Reality. The organ donor's family is never charged for donating. The family is charged for the cost of all final efforts to save your life, and those costs are sometimes misinterpreted as costs related to organ donation. Costs for organ removal go to the transplant recipient.


  1. I have said that they can take anything but my eyeballs. For some reason I want to keep them. ;)

  2. I'm already a card-carrying member of the organ donor club!

  3. Good stuff! I'm an organ donor too!

  4. I'm a member of that club & so is everyone in my family. I remember working on a campaign at the hospital. I think the BIG organ donation slogan at the time was.... "Don't take your organs to Heaven. Heaven knows we need them here."
    I couldn't agree more.

  5. There's no reason NOT to be an organ donor. All of the 'objections' floating around are factual errors or myths, as you've pointed out. In addition to the obvious benefit, every person who agrees to donation upon death reduced the need for living organ donors, and that's always a good thing.

    Contrary to public perception, there are many risks to being a living donor including bleeding, blood clots, hypertension, hernias, chronic fatigue, intestinal binding, reduced adrenal gland function, testicular swelling, and severely reduced kidney function.

    According to UNOS, some living donors have ended upon the waiting list themselves. Also, some living donors have been unable to procure health or life insurance post-donation, and while it's well documented that living donors suffer from depression, anxiety and PTSD-like symptoms, transplant centers offer no aftercare or support.