If you are one of the many thousand patients in the U.S. waiting for an organ and you are lucky enough to have a generous and willing donor to provide you with the second chance you need, you are surely blessed!! Having a living donor provides the best possibility for compatibility and much less chance of rejection later on. Having a familial relationship between the patient and donor is best, but not imperative for success.
Virtually anyone in good health can register to become a “living” donor and give the gift of life.
According to http://www.organdonor.gov “a new patient is added to the organ waiting list every ten minutes. Each day, an average of 79 people receive organ transplants. However, an average of 18 people die each day waiting for transplants that can’t take place because of the shortage of donated organs. Organ transplantation has become an accepted medical treatment for end-stage organ failure. The facts prove it. Only you can help make it happen.”
The thought of donating parts of your body or even blood can be scary, and the statistics may seem harsh and overwhelming, but if you remember that behind the statistics are real people with families and loved ones praying for a miracle, the fear may just dissipate and give way to a renewed feeling of generosity.
According to an article in the Huffington Post from April 2012: there are “currently more than 112,000 men, women and children on the national transplant waiting list. Each one of these individuals is a mother, a father, a son, a daughter, a sister or a brother, and their illness affects the entire family. Their wait on the transplant list depends on the availability of an organ match. Unless they have a living donor, the average wait on the list is 5 to 7 years.”
There are no age limits on organ donation — both the young and old can be donors; so as long as you are healthy and without a serious medical condition like HIV infection, an active bout with cancer, or some other chronic illness or infection, you should be able to be a donor. There are screening programs that determine your eligibility anyway, so you would be screened for health prior to an actual donation. Like me, you may be wondering how many living donor programs are out there, what types of living donations can be made, or even how risky or painful it might be to give the gift of life. According to http://www.organdonor.gov:
There are several living donor programs;
But if you’re not willing to give up an organ quite yet, there are other meaningful living donor programs that can make a significant impact on the life of a patient waiting for a match:
Blood stem cells:
Marrow – This soft tissue is found in the interior cavities of bones. It is a major site of blood cell production and is removed to obtain stem cells.
Peripheral blood stem cells -The same types of stem cells found in marrow can be pushed out into a donor’s bloodstream after the donor receives daily injections of a medication called filgrastim. This medication increases the number of stem cells circulating in the blood and provides a source of donor stem cells that can be collected in a way that is similar to blood donation.
Cord blood stem cells -The umbilical cord that connected a newborn to the mother during pregnancy contains blood that has been shown to contain high levels of blood stem cells. Cord blood can be collected and stored in large freezers for a long period of time and, therefore, offers another source of stem cells available for transplanting into patients.
Blood and Platelets:
Blood and platelets are formed by the body, go through a life cycle, and are continuously replaced throughout life. This means that you can donate blood and platelets more than once. It is safe to donate blood every 56 days and platelets every four weeks. Platelets are tiny cell fragments that circulate throughout the blood and aid in blood clotting. Platelets can be donated without donating blood. When a specific patient needs platelets, but does not need blood, a matching donor is found and platelets are separated from the rest of the blood which is returned to the donor. The donor’s body will replace the missing platelets within a few hours.
Just as there are risks with any medical procedure, there are risks involved in being a “living donor”. For example, in a recent article about a living donor surgery that went horribly wrong; “Living donor procedures are not without risk to the donor, even in experienced hands and programs, while attempts are always made to minimize donor risk, complications including death are always possible.”
It’s therefore imperative that you work with a transplant center that is well established and well respected with good clinical outcomes – do your homework! “By federal law, transplant centers are required to assign a staff person, such as a doctor or social worker, to be an independent advocate for the donor. The donor advocate is supposed to take into account only the donor’s concerns and not the concerns of the recipient, since sometimes there can be a conflict of interest between the two. To make sure the advocate is focused solely on the donor, there’s supposed to be a “wall” between the donor advocate and the recipient’s team.”
Virtually anyone can choose to become a living donor and leave a lasting legacy by helping another person live a longer and happier life — your gift of organ or tissue donation can change someone’s life in more ways than you can imagine. It’s truly the “ultimate selfless” gift!!!
Give the gift of life/register to become a donor:
See the US waiting list candidate data:
Why minorities are needed:
Learn the facts:
A Call to Arms for Organ Donation, by Ann Lopez: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/ann-lopez/organ-donation_b_1439439.html
Cleveland Clinic hopes to use more living donors for liver transplants: http://www.cleveland.com/healthfit/index.ssf/2012/04/cleveland_clinic_hopes_to_use.html
Organ donor’s surgery death sparks questions: http://www.cnn.com/2012/04/08/health/cohen-donor-safety/?hpt=us_t2