Monday, July 9, 2012

Organ Donation On My Mind

Organ donation -- what does it mean to YOU? To me, it is the selfless gift of life and the greatest gift one could ever give.

I have been thinking a lot about organ donation lately. As several of you know, my husband was able to donate his corneas after he passed away. He so badly wanted to donate more, and I wish he would have been able to - but every organ in his body was diseased. But I am more than happy that he was able to at least donate something! The gift of sight. Vision. The ability to see. What an amazing gift to give. A gift that lives on many, many years. The gift that keeps on giving.

I’ve been thinking about the recipient of Spencer's corneas. I continue to hear about donor recipients letters of thanks that they write to the donor family. I wonder if someday I will ever get a letter from the recipient of Spencer’s corneas? I definitely look forward to that day if it ever comes. It will be a very welcome letter. Of course we donated his corneas with no expectation of anything in return (such as a letter from the recipient), and I don’t expect that at all. But I can’t help but wonder, who is now seeing because of Spencer? Who is now seeing the world “though Spencer’s eyes”? I hope that whoever got his corneas were as deserving, kind, and selfless as Spencer was. =)

I just think it's so cool that a small part of him is living on in someone else. It may not be something as huge and as life saving as a lung, heart, liver, or kidney -- but the gift of sight is an incredible thing!!

Just imagine if you were either never born with eyesight, or if you suddenly lost your sight due to illness or injury? Imagine never knowing the colors of the rainbow; the face behind that furry pet that you feel and have grown to love; the words on a page of a book; your parents faces. Imagine knowing these beautiful sights but having it stripped away from you in an instant, or slowly over time. What would it be like to not be able to see your children celebrate their birthdays and see the smiles on their faces; to forget what the color yellow looked like; to not be able to read the words in a book or see the picture in a movie; to have to learn a brand new way of reading?
We take these things for granted every single day. Seeing is something that comes so naturally to us, as does breathing, moving, talking, or walking. Actions and senses that are second nature that we can’t possibly know what we have until it is gone.

I am very passionate about organ donation. Why take your organs to the grave when you can help several different people still on earth, who would otherwise die, LIVE? There are so many people who are in a life-or-death situation waiting on an organ transplant. If my husband would have lived longer; he would have been one of those individuals needing an organ. Unfortunately the demand of organs far exceeds the supply, of both deceased and living donors.

I’m not going to bombard you with tons of statistics which you will most likely skim through -- but I do want to share a couple of statistics with you which I feel are very eye opening and important when getting the real picture of organ donation. I hope that you will take the time to read them and understand why it’s so important to consider being a donor.

* About 25,000 people a year receive transplants, which is fantastic, it really does seem like a large number -- but about 10,000 more die while waiting for organs. To put this into perspective, it’s about THREE TIMES the number of people who died on the September 11th attack on the World Trade Center. That’s a lot of people, friends.

* At any given time, about 100,000 people are on the transplant waiting list. For each and every organ transplanted, three more people sign up; and those on the waiting list die at a rate of ten a day.

I hear of countless people saying that they are an organ/tissue donor. That’s great!!! But my real question to them, to YOU, is have you talked to your family about your wishes to donate your organs and/or tissues? There are so many people who want to be organ donors, who sign up on the national organ donation registry, and mark that they are donors on their drivers license -- but friends, THIS IS NOT ENOUGH! Let me tell you why.

Between 6,900 and 10,700 people want to donate their organs -- but because of families not knowing their wishes, next of kin not being asked to donate, etc only 37 to 57% of potential donors become actual donors! That percentage is strikingly low!!! Even if a patient has signed an organ donation card, the permission of the immediate family is required before the organs can be removed. This poses several problems which I will mention a couple but not go into detail about:
1) The family doesn’t know about the wishes of their deceased loved-one and refuses
2) They just lost their loved one and don’t want to make a sudden decision such as this
3) The removal and transplantation of organs is very time sensitive!

It is so, so important that you talk with your family about your wishes on organ and tissue donation -- Openly and Often! Make sure that they know!

And unfortunately, even if everyone was an organ donor when they died, it still would not be enough to supply the many people in need of a transplant. There are 12,000-20,000 people declared brain dead every year -- but 100,000 people are in need of transplants.
That’s why it’s also important to consider being a living donor. I know that not all people can be, or want to be, a living donor, but it is something to consider!
The risk of donating an organ is very slim.
* Kidney donors face odds of 1 in 20,000 of dying from surgical complications, and it can now be done laparoscopically so that you’re able to avoid a big incision and your recovery time is decreased.
* The odds of  living liver-lobe donors is less known but it’s estimated that they face odds of 1 in 10,000 of dying from complications.

And think about this fact for a second:
If only 1 in every 3,000 people donated a kidney, the kidney shortage would be SOLVED! That’s incredible! I think it’s worth a consideration to be a living donor =)

I’ve been wanting to write a post about Organ donation for a long time, and I finally found the motivation to do so. I hope that you will PLEASE consider signing up to be an organ donor AND talking to your family about your wishes.

You can register to become an organ donor here:
Just click on your state and follow the prompts

Remember -- you’re giving the gift of LIFE. The greatest gift of all and a gift that continues to give!

All statistics and facts taken from:
Munson, Ronald. "Chapter 7." Intervention And Reflection -- Basic Issues in Medical Ethics. 8th ed. Belmont: Thomson Wadsworth, 2008. N. pag. Print.


  1. What a meaningful post. My sweetie & I both are organ donors and it is indicated on our drivers' licenses. At least, something good can come from a tragedy. You are a brave young woman. Look forward to reading more of your posts!

  2. I'm so glad you had the opportunity to read the post and I'm so thankful that you are an organ donor. Always puts a smile on my face to hear. Thanks for visiting my blog! Don't forget to Follow!