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Ohio Department of Aging Boomerang: It all comes back to you!

Boomerang: It all comes back to you!

My Life - March 2010

Matters of the Heart ... and Kidneys, Liver and Lungs
Myths, Misunderstandings Keep Too Many from Giving the Gift of Life

If you knew - just by checking a box - you could save eight lives and enhance the quality of life for up to 50 others, would you do it? Each day, about 77 people receive organ transplants. Unfortunately, 19 people die each day waiting for transplants because of the shortage of donated organs. An estimated 10,000 to 14,000 people who die each year meet the criteria to be donors, but less than half become actual organ donors.

No one is too old or too young to be considered as a potential organ and tissue donor.As of January 2010, more than 100,000 people nationally are on organ transplant waiting lists. On any given day, more than 3,000 Ohioans are waiting for an organ transplant. By agreeing to become an organ, eye and tissue donor when you obtain or renew your driver license or state identification card, you can become a hero to these people and their families.

No one is too old or too young to be considered as a potential organ and tissue donor. The condition of your organs is more important than your age. There are few conditions, of course, that would automatically screen you out as a donor, such as being HIV positive or having an active cancer or systemic infection. But, if you are generally healthy, or even if you have some medical conditions, you can donate under most conditions.

Organs that can be donated while you are still alive include kidneys, hearts, lungs, livers, pancreas and intestines. After you're gone, your corneas, middle ear structures, skin, heart valves, bone, veins, cartilage, tendons and ligaments can be used to restore sight, cover burns, repair hearts, replace veins and mend damaged connective tissue and cartilage.

If you decide to become (or already are) an organ and tissue donor, discuss this choice with your family. Even if you are registered to donate your organs upon your death, your next-of-kin still has to sign a consent form for the donation to happen. Approximately 35 percent of potential donors do not have their wishes honored because family members are unaware of their choice or refuse to give consent.

Common reasons people may object to organ donation are most often based on myths and misunderstandings about the process, including:

  • Potential costs - In fact, there is no cost to the donor or his family. The costs of the of transplant operation are the sole responsibility of the recipient and his or her insurance.
  • The church frowns upon it - Actually, all major religions support organ donation as an act of giving and caring, but you can discuss this with your own religious leader to find out more.
  • Donors can't have open caskets - Modern surgical procedures are used to harvest organs for transplant and donors are treated with the same respect and care as the recipient.

By signing up in the Ohio Donor Registry at the Bureau of Motor Vehicles, online, or through a mail-in paper enrollment form, you are making an advance directive to donate life at the time of your death. To learn more, visit www.donatelifeohio.org.