UPMC Clinician: Surprising Facts About Organ Donation | Life

Making the decision to become an organ donor is an important decision. Every person who says yes to organ donation gives hope to the tens of thousands of people waiting for organ, eye and tissue donation.

Many people have misconceptions about organ and tissue donation, which can discourage them from registering as organ donors. Each organ donor has the potential to save eight lives and improve the lives of 75 others. This is why it is important to dispel these myths.

Here are eight facts that can help you make an informed decision about the gift of life:

Fact #1: If you are sick or injured, the priority of emergency medical personnel and doctors is to save your life. Your life always comes first. Donation only becomes a possibility when all methods of rescue have failed.

Fact #2: Advanced age and health do not automatically disqualify you from organ donation. No matter how old you are or if you have a chronic illness, you may be able to become an organ donor. Organs were donated by donors between the ages of 80 and 90.

If you have a medical condition such as diabetes, high blood pressure, or even cancer, medical tests and doctors will determine which organs can be donated. Some organs may not be healthy enough to be transplanted, but others can help save lives. Regardless of your medical history, you should always register to become an organ donor.

Fact #3: One donor can save or improve the lives of 75 others. You’re not just saving one life, you can save eight lives by donating your organs, restore two people’s sight, and heal over 75 lives through tissue donation. You might hear stories about life-saving heart transplants, but you can also donate organs like your stomach, intestines, lungs, and pancreas. Connective tissues, skin, bones, bone marrow and even corneas can also be donated.

Fact #4: Your wallet or the fame of your reality TV star cannot put you at the top of the list of donors. It doesn’t matter if you’re wealthy or well-known when it comes to organ donation. A national system matches available donor organs with people on the waiting list based on blood type, body size, health status, geographic location, tissue type and time on the list.

Fact #5: More than 106,000 people are waiting for a life-saving transplant. Currently, there are 112,000 people on the waiting list for organ donation, and another person is added to the waiting list every 10 minutes.

Fact #6: There are two ways to become an organ donor. There are two types of donors, living donors and deceased organ donation.

You can donate a kidney, bone marrow or part of your liver as a living donor, and you don’t have to be a parent to be compatible. This gives the thousands of people on the donation list another option and can save more lives. The living donation process begins with an assessment at an approved transplant center, such as the Living Donor Assessment Clinics for Kidney and Liver at UPMC Williamsport.

The second way to become a donor is to register to donate your organs upon death. You can register as a donor when you register for your driver’s license or you can register online.

Fact #7: It costs nothing to become an organ donor. When you become a donor, the associated costs never accrue to the deceased donor’s family members, the donor’s family only pays for pre-death medical costs and costs associated with funeral arrangements.

Fact #8: All major religions endorse organ donation. Leaders of all major religions are considering authorizing, enabling and supporting organ donation. It is often thought of as a last act of generosity towards others.

April is National Gift of Life Month. Discuss your organ donation wishes with your family and take the step to register as a donor. Together, we can close the gap between the number of eligible donors and the number of people on the waiting list.

Established in 1981, UPMC Transplant Services has performed over 20,000 organ transplants. This includes liver, kidney, pancreas, small intestine, heart, lung, double lung, single lung, and multiple organ transplants. As a pioneer in solid organ transplantation, our program has been challenged with some of the most difficult and complex cases. To learn more about organ, eye or tissue donation or to register to become a donor, visit UPMC.com/DonateLife.

Heidi Weeder, RN, CCRN Clinician, UPMC Organ and Tissue Donation Council

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