Something that a lot of you may not know is that my Dad had one of the first liver transplants in the state of Georgia. That was back in the early 90′s and it gave us an extra 10 years with him that we wouldn’t have had otherwise. During those 10 years my Dad became a HUGE advocate for organ donation. At the time of his transplant we were told that it would probably extend his life for about 10 years, they were right. A little background on that time in our lives: My Dad was in the hospital for a total of 9 months before they finally found a match. One day the doctors came in and told us that there was nothing further that they could do and that he would probably die in the next few days since no match had been found and that they had exhausted all measures. I was only 21 years old and I was going to loose my Dad. That night the call came. There had been a motorcycle accident in Michigan and the young man that passed away was a match and his family would like to donate his organs. Talk about a bittersweet moment. We were filled with joy at the renewed hope we were so suddenly offered but saddened beyond comprehension that someone else had to know unbearable grief to provide that joy. That night the transplant team assembled and flew to Michigan to retrieve the organ. After being up all night, traveling to make sure all was in order they then spent MANY hours operating on my Dad…installing new life into his body. It is very hard to portray the roller-coaster of emotions that you go through. I am not even sure it is possible unless you were there. We never heard anything other than what I have told you about the donor but it is my hope that his family was comforted a little by the fact that his generosity saved a life. I know that we would never be able to thank them enough. While my Dad is gone today, he did get the opportunity to meet all of his grandchildren, they got to know the man that he was and make memories that will last them throughout their lives. Today with so many medical advances it is absolutely amazing at what they can do and how far transplantation has come.
After his transplant my Dad spoke at community events, he helped educate people about the facts and helped dispel the myths that surround organ donation. He became an advocate for second chances.
Did you know that at any given moment, almost 100,000 children and adults are awaiting an organ transplant? And that an average 18 people die every DAY due to the lack of available organs? The numbers are overwhelming and it is saddens me to see so many people that could be saved die because the general public is uneducated.
So, I would like to help dispel some of the myths and help you to understand why agreeing to be an organ donor is so, so important:
Myth: If emergency room doctors know you’re an organ donor, they won’t work as hard to save you.
Fact: If you are sick or injured and admitted to the hospital, the number one priority is to save your life. Organ donation can only be considered after brain death has been declared by a physician. Many states have adopted legislation allowing individuals to legally designate their wish to be a donor should brain death occur, although in many states Organ Procurement Organizations also require consent from the donor’s family.
Myth: When you’re waiting for a transplant, your financial or celebrity status is as important as your medical status.
Fact: When you are on the transplant waiting list for a donor organ, what really counts is the severity of your illness, time spent waiting, blood type, and other important medical information.
Myth: Having “organ donor” noted on your driver’s license or carrying a donor card is all you have to do to become a donor.
Fact: In most states, hospitals can legally proceed with organ, eye or tissue donation, without consent from next of kin, if you have a driver’s license with an “organ donor” designation or have signed up with an organ donor registry. However, it’s important to talk to your family about your decision to donate LIFE so they are aware of your wishes and will feel comfortable honoring them.
Myth: Only hearts, livers, and kidneys can be transplanted.
Fact: Needed organs include the heart, kidneys, pancreas, lungs, liver and intestines. Tissue that can be donated include the eyes, skin, bone, heart valves and tendons.
Myth: Your history of medical illness means your organs or tissues are unfit for donation.
Fact: At the time of death, the appropriate medical professionals will review your medical and social histories to determine whether or not you can be a donor. With recent advances in transplantation, many more people than ever before can be donors. It’s best to tell your family your wishes and sign up to be an organ and tissue donor on your driver’s license or an official donor document.
Myth: You are too old to be a donor.
Fact: People of all ages and medical histories should consider themselves potential donors. Your medical condition at the time of death will determine what organs and tissue can be donated.
Myth: If you agree to donate your organs, your family will be charged for the costs.
Fact: There is no cost to the donor’s family or estate for organ and tissue donation. Funeral costs remain the responsibility of the family.
Myth: Organ donation disfigures the body and changes the way it looks in a casket.
Fact: Donated organs are removed surgically, in a routine operation similar to gallbladder or appendix removal. Donation does not change the appearance of the body for the funeral service.
Myth: Your religion prohibits organ donation.
Fact: All major organized religions approve of organ and tissue donation and consider it an act of charity.
Myth: There is real danger of being heavily drugged, then waking to find you have had one kidney (or both) removed for a black market transplant.
Fact: This tale has been widely circulated over the Internet. There is absolutely no evidence of such activity ever occurring in the U.S. While the tale may sound credible, it has no basis in the reality of organ transplantation. Many people who hear the myth probably dismiss it, but it is possible that some believe it and decide against organ donation out of needless fear.
I wasn’t asked to write this post, it is from my heart. My intention is to hopefully educate one person about the benefits of organ donation. It may just mean life for another someday.