National Donor Day may have officially passed (It's celebrated every Feb. 14), but the day's meaning remains relevant all year long, designated originally by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services to raise awareness for organ, tissue, eye, platelet, blood and marrow donation.
One person is added to the organ donation waiting list every 11 minutes, translating to more than 100,000 men, women and children in the United States in need of life-saving organ transplants. Without available organs, about 21 people die every day, which is a real shame given one organ donor can save the lives of up to eight people. And for every tissue donation? Countless lives are improved.
Organ Donation Facts
According to the United Network for Organ Sharing, strict standards and a national computer system are in place to guarantee fair and ethical organ distribution. Organs donated for transplants are matched to recipients depending on their blood and tissue type, organ size, waiting time, medical urgency and geographical location.
Anyone has the potential to become an organ donor. However, medical condition at the time of death will ultimately determine if and which organs and tissues may be harvested for donation. Organ donation will also not cost the donor's family anything and is carried out in a manner that still makes it possible for a donor to have an open-casket funeral.
When an individual is sick or injured, the number one priority is still to save that person's life. Organ donation is only considered after death or brain death but it is also possible to make living donations.
In 2014, almost 5,000 transplants were done thanks to living donors.
Who Can Be A Living Donor?
Anyone in good overall mental and physical health over 18 years old can be a living donor, although certain medical conditions will have to be taken into consideration as they will affect the viability of an organ. For instance, an individual with acute infections, hepatitis, HIV, cancer, or diabetes cannot make a living kidney donation. The kidney is the most commonly donated organ from a living donor.
Making Your Move
Death is never a pleasant time but deciding to be an organ donor can help you become part of something bigger one last time. If you're interested in becoming an organ donor, do discuss your decision with your family or consider preparing advance care directives.
"We frequently find that people haven't talked about it or made their wishes clear, and this puts tremendous stress on family members in an already emotional situation. If advance directives are in place, families don't have to make the decision. You have already made it," said Shaun Golden, Neuroscience Intensive Care Unit nurse director at the Brigham and Women's Hospital.
Majority of Americans say they are in support of organ donation but just 30 percent actually take the necessary steps to becoming a donor.
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