April is not only the month that we hope finally brings spring weather, but it is also Organ Donor Awareness month! This is the perfect time to remind everyone just how great the need is for organ donation in the United States and how you can help to make a difference.
There are many reasons why people do not agree to be organ donors, including fear, lack of knowledge, or they "just don't think about it." But if someone came to you today, and asked if, just by signing a piece of paper, you were able to save someone's life and leave a lasting legacy yourself; would you feel differently?
By choosing to be an organ donor, you can save up to 8 lives, and enhance the quality of life of up to 75 people! There are more than 115,000 people in need of organ transplants in the United States. Of those, over 6,000 will die each year because a donor is not found. It is important to note that the need is especially high in minority groups. If you choose to be an organ donor, you may be able to donate your heart, kidney, liver, pancreas, intestines, or lungs. You can also donate tissues such as your corneas, heart valves, ligaments, veins, bone and much more. This is why so many people can be affected and helped by your decision to donate! It is also possible to become a living donor. A living individual can donate a kidney, part of the pancreas, part of a lung, part of the liver, or part of the intestine. Healthy persons of a certain age can also donate stem cells, and of course can donate blood and platelets.
There are a few myths that many people still believe that may prevent them from agreeing to organ donation. The first and probably most common, is that not all efforts will be made to save your life if you are a registered organ donor. This is simply not true. Organ donation is not even considered until you are deceased. Secondly, many feel that they will not be able to have an open casket funeral. This is also false. There will be no signs of organ or tissue donation when prepared for burial. People also believe there are extra costs incurred to your family to donate your organs. In reality, all costs for organ removal are handled by the transplant recipient. Lastly, some think that they are not in good enough of health to be an organ donor, or they are too old. However, there are no medical or age restrictions put on organ donors.
So how do you become an organ donor? It's very easy! Visit organdonor.gov, and click on the link "become a donor." It's that simple. You can also choose to have the Organ Donor designation put on your driver's license whenever you visit a Penndot Photo License Center to have your driver's license photo taken. It is also important to be clear in your wishes to your loved ones and family. Although becoming a registered organ donor is a legal document, and your family cannot change a choice that you have made, it is important for your family to know and be comfortable with your decision. This is especially important if you are under 18, as you need parental consent to declare yourself an organ donor. Children and teenagers are in need of organs too!
Eighteen people die every day waiting for an organ. These are people that could easily be your mother, brother, wife, friend or child. With the medical and scientific advancements of today, we would be able to save these people's lives, if the organs were available. Choose to leave a lasting legacy and give the gift of life today! Please visit organdonor.gov for more information. You can also learn more about PinnacleHealth's transplant program at pinnaclehealth.org/transplant.
Bethany Rhoads PA-C