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The explosion of red and pink decorations this month has been a not-so-subtle reminder of Valentine’s Day on February 14th. I love reading the messages on those adorable conversation heart candies. I recently discovered that February 14th is also National Donor Day. Could that overly sweet candy heart actually be suggesting we say “yes” to become a donor? If you have ever considered becoming a donor, or maybe never considered it, these facts and statistics might help you make an informed choice.
When I think of organ donation, I imagine it’s like in a TV medical drama: a grieving family member tearfully makes the “right” choice, saving countless lives by donating the deceased loved-one’s organs. The unfortunate reality is that every day 21 people die waiting for a transplant, according the National Foundation for Transplants. There are more than 121,000 patients waiting for lifesaving organs and tissue transplants, but only 45% of Americans have registered as organ donors. A single donor’s organs have the potential to save up to 8 lives, says donatelife.org. The cornea from one donor has the capacity to restore sight to two people, and one donor’s tissue donation could heal the lives of 75 people!I could potentially impact the lives of 85 people on the transplant list.
A common misconception is that if I am an organ donor, in the event of a life-threatening emergency, hospital staff will not work as hard to save my life. Thisis simply not true. The Mayo Clinic says when you go to the hospital for treatment, doctors focus on saving your life — not somebody else’s. And organs, tissues, etc. are harvested by a completely different team of medical workers so there is no conflict of interest.The Mayo Clinic clarified a few other misconceptions:
- MYTHOrgan donation is against my religion // FACT Organ donation is consistent with the beliefs of most major religions
- MYTHMaybe I won’t really be dead // FACT People who have agreed to organ donation are given more tests (at no charge to their families) to determine that they’re truly dead than are those who haven’t agreed to organ donation
- MYTHI can’t have an open-casket funeral // FACT The donor’s body is clothed for burial, so there are no visible signs of organ or tissue donation
- MYTHI’m too old to donate // FACT There’s no defined cutoff age for donating organs. The decision to use your organs is based on strict medical criteria, not age
According to the United Network for Organ Sharing (UNOS), during 2017 34,769 transplants were performed. But the total number of donors was only 16,465. UNOS says that every ten minutes someone is added to the national transplant waiting list. Instead of paper cards and candy for Valentine’s Day, I’m considering asking loved-ones to become organ donors. If you wish to become an organ donor, register online at organdonor.gov and share your decision with your family.
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