Lent Post #34: Do You Have a Heart (Or another organ)? The Critical Importance of Organ Donation

A signature. That’s all it takes. One. Simple. Signature. And eight lives are forever changed. If you can’t tell, I am extremely passionate about organ donation and about the process of organ transplantation. No, I’m not an organ recipient, but I know people who are, who have been, I have been present for organ transplant patients, and also have been present with the families of brain deceased patients who have made the valiant decision to donate their organs to those who are waiting for the gift of life. Because that is what it truly is: the GIFT of LIFE. One person can save EIGHT people their organs, and potentially impact the lives of dozens more with thanks to the gift of tissue donation. 

Last year, a young, vibrant, 20-year-old Canadian woman named Helene Campbell was diagnosed with idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis, progressive and always fatal lung disease which involves the hardening and scarring of the soft, spongy lung tissue, preventing it from being able to transfer oxygen into the blood stream. Instead of becoming down and bitter about her prognosis, Helene took to twitter and YouTube, asking her followers and celebrities to tweet Justin Bieber on a particular day regarding the cause of organ donation. And oddly enough, the now-fallen celebrity did! Helene spent months on the Canadian transplant list before finally receiving her lungs. She has become a spokeswoman for organ donation, encouraging others to sign up in Canada, which like the US, struggles to get people to sign up to be donors. She even appeared on Ellen before and after her transplant, not asking for anything for herself, but to encourage others to sign up to be organ donors- 

And it starts with a signature. It starts with the desire to be selfless, to give selflessly to others who have needs beyond understanding. Beyond emotion. 

Now, you think you can’t be an organ donor? Ok. Fair enough. But you can still sign up and be evaluated later, should the time come. The oldest organ donor was 92 years old! There are currently approximately 122, 174 people and more waiting in the United States for organs, and as many as 18 each day will die waiting on the list, due to the lack of donors and available organs. 

Now, why do people need an organ transplant, you might ask? (Or some of you are also probably thinking, dumb question, Liz!…) For a wide variety of reasons! Some are young, some are older, and some are in the middle. Some are women, some are men. Many need hearts, lungs, pancreases, kidneys, corneas, skin, bones, intestines, among other tissues surgeons can harvest to save a life. Some have genetic conditions that have presented at birth, others contracted life-threatening illnesses and infections throughout their lives that threatened the integrity of a particular organ (or organs…), which caused that organ to fail. Often the reasons are hard and sad, difficult to deal with, and make life impossible to continue with as it is, and so transplant becomes the only possible treatment (and even cure?) for a person. 

You are probably asking the question, “How are people evaluated to be a donor?” That’s a wonderful question discerning reader! Becoming a donor is easy, and all people, regardless of age should consider becoming an organ and tissue donor. There are a few absolute exclusions, including HIV/AIDS, active cancer, and a systemic infection, but there are NO STRICT upper and lower age limits, meaning you won’t be turned away because you are too old or too young. The condition of organs are far more important than age, because, for example, someone who is 60 and never consumed alcohol is a better donor than someone who is 35 and has been a lifelong alcoholic! If you have a medical condition, you will be evaluated should the time arise, and only eligible organs for donation be taken. 

Now, don’t worry, being an organ donor does not mean that you will be denied potentially LIFE SAVING treatment should you find yourself on the receiving end of an injury or illness. Being an organ donor just means that you have decided to give the gift of life to another should the time come when your life has come to an end. It does not permit a physician or another to end your life by any means, nor does it mean that you will be given substandard treatment; it is just a designation that helps family, friends and physicians better understand your end-of-life wishes! 

Did you know that minority donors are in especially high need?! For example, African Americans, Asians and Pacific Islanders are three times more likely than Caucasians to suffer from end-stage renal disease? 35% of the more than 95,000 people waiting on the national list for a kidney transplant are African American – So a greater diversity of donors may potentially increase access to transplantation for everyone. Why, you ask? Not everyone has the same tissue type and compatible blood types, which are essential to organs doing well (aka not being rejected) in a new person’s body. While anti-rejection meds help, if an organ isn’t a perfect match, it decreases the longevity of the organ in a person’s body. Increasing the variety and diversity of organs being donated will help increase the chances of receiving perfect matches! 

It is important to remember that you never know when you might be impacted by the topic of organ donation; you might not know someone who has been on the receiving or donating end now, but life changes in the blink of an eye! You yourself, a family member or a friend might suddenly be in need of an organ, or might be an organ donor, saving the lives of eight or more people in need. The simple decision to sign your drivers license or sign up using one of the below links could forever influence the lives of yourself and countless others. Prayerfully give it a thought. 

If you are interested and still curious about organ donation, would like to help further, or register with your state as an organ donor, please visit: 

http://www.organdonor.gov/index.html

http://donatelife.net/understanding-donation/organ-donation/ 

& To Register as an Organ Donor in Your Licensed (where you have your Drivers License) State: http://donatelife.net/register-now/

 

Interested in seeing Helene’s story? Watch her story on YouTube: 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XrBFMqF-pcM

 

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