Give it up: organ donations save lives
BY MIKE JONES Associate Editor
Sunday, April 15, 2012
4/15/12 at 3:39 AM
Oklahoma suffered a terrible drought last summer and fall. Trees and plants wilted, grass turned yellow and refused to grow. Then, at the beginning of 2012, rain returned. All that flora we thought was done for returned to life.
That's all it takes. Some nourishment and maybe a little luck to return life. We see around us every day the metaphors of life.
As April rolled around again this year, we are reminded of the life rain brings. April also is the one month of the year that we are reminded of organ donation. Officially it is known as National Donate Life Month.
As sure as rain nourishes the plants, trees and grass (and humans, too) organ donations return many of our neighbors to life.
I've written about organ donation and tissue donation for years now. Every year I check the statistics from Life Share Transplant Services of Oklahoma. Each year, I hope for significant change. Each year, the statistics remain basically the same.
There are, of course, some restrictions. Certain illnesses such as HIV or a spreading brain cancer can eliminate a potential donor. But that should not deter anyone who is considering becoming a donor. At the time of death a doctor evaluates the deceased and makes that decision.
- More than 100,000 Americans are awaiting an organ, more than 800 of them Oklahomans.
- There were more than 28,000 transplants last year, 246 in Oklahoma.
- Nearly 7,000 Americans died last year waiting on a transplant; more than 50 were Oklahomans.
- Another name is added to the waiting list every 11 minutes.
- Eighteen Americans die each day awaiting a donation.
- It's easy to dismiss potential donors as uncaring, but that's not the case. It is easy to become a potential donor, but not everyone can be a donor. In fact, only 2 percent of the population are likely donors. However, only 1 percent of the population elects to become donors.
Age limits for heart donation no longer exist, although there is an age limit of 70 for tissue donation.
It's not just hearts and kidneys that can be donated. A list of organs accompanies this column.
And don't believe the myths. Rich and famous people are not moved up on the list. Who receives the organ is dictated not only by the length of time on the list but by blood type, illness and other medical criteria.
Most organized religions support donation. Just because you are a donor doesn't mean doctors will not try as hard to save your life. The Organ Procurement Organization is not notified until all life-saving efforts have failed. And no doctor would deliberately let die someone who has a chance to live.
Despite what you might have heard, the family of the deceased is not charged for an organ donation.
Some believe that becoming a donor means all organs will be taken. Untrue: You may specify which organs you want to donate and your wishes will be followed.
For those who are concerned about an open-casket funeral, the body is not mutilated during the organ donation process.
Through the efforts of groups such as Life Share and the Global Organization for Organ Donation - a non-profit group started here in Tulsa by Shelly Brady - Oklahomans are reminded of the importance of organ donation.
GOOD, for instance, initiated the Circle of Life program (which appears in the Tulsa World) that, with a symbol next to the donor's name in the obituary list, publicly thanks those who have given life to those desperately waiting.
More information about organ donation can be found at the Life Share web page at www.tulsaworld.com/lifeshare or the GOOD site at www.tulsaworld.com/globalgood
There are many people, young and old, waiting right now, clinging to life. Check the box on your drivers license. Tell your family. Put it in your will. Make it clear that you want to be a donor.
It's a cliche, but it's still true: There is no greater gift than the gift of life.
Come on, sign up. You're not going to need your organs where you're headed.
Organs to donate
Heart - Saves the lives of those suffering from heart failure from a disease or virus.
Lungs - Saves the lives of those suffering from fatal lung conditions such as cystic fibrosis.
Kidneys - A donor's two kidneys are transplanted into two different recipients.
Liver - The only cure for liver failure is a transplant.
Pancreas - A new pancreas eliminates the need for daily insulin injections for diabetics.
Eye tissue (cornea) - Corneal transplants have a 90 percent to 95 percent success rate in restoring lost vision.
Bone - Bone that has been destroyed by tumors or infections can be replaced with healthy donated bone.
Skin - Severe burn victims receive donated skin, speeding up the healing process.
Heart valves - Often used in infants whose valves are defective at birth.
Bowel - Often transplanted into infants to correct birth defects.
Tendons and ligaments - Used in orthopedic and plastic surgery to repair or replace tendons and ligaments that have been destroyed by disease.
Veins - Used in heart-bypass surgery to replace destroyed veins.
Original Print Headline: Give it up
Mike Jones, 918-581-8332
During the Jan. 22 Rose Parade on the Donate Life float, relatives hold portraits of their loved ones who became organ donors. REED SAXON/Associated Press file