Organ Donation: How Planning Now Could Save Lives Later
Charlene Singleton, 16
Ketsia Clermont, 17
Did you know that approximately 6,000 people die in the United States each year waiting for organ transplants? The number is so high because of the lack of organ donors. Many people are misinformed about organ transplants and choose not to donate. There are many different vital organs one can donate, such as the heart, lungs, and kidneys—even skin tissue! One donor can save and enhance up to 50 lives. Have you ever considered saving a life through donation?
EarthAngels: Healthy Teens Promoting Donation
Sara Stowell, 19
Kayla Gennrich, 19
Allison Barkyoumb was in need of a new heart. After waiting three weeks for a donation, she passed away from health complications. Her friends, furious with the lack of donors, started an organization called EarthAngels, which reaches out to educate about organ donation.
On August 9, 2002, our close friend Allison Barkyoumb went into her eighth surgery. When Allison told everyone that she was having valve* surgery, people assumed that it would be okay, just like every other time. Only this time they were wrong; the surgery was unsuccessful. After weeks of problems and complications, the doctors decided that she would need a new heart. They waited for a heart for three and a half weeks but, unfortunately, one never came. Allison had a brain hemorrhage* before she could receive one. She passed away on September 12 when she was taken off of life support.
We found it very sad, shocking, and unacceptable that even though she was at the top of the donor list, not one person who passed away was a match. Allison was a donor, but, at the time of her death, her organs weren't healthy enough to be passed on. From this experience we learned that many people are unaware of the importance of donating their organs. We want to raise the awareness by telling people our story and encouraging them to become donors. This is why we started EarthAngels.
EarthAngels is now an official non-profit organization that has about 20 volunteers, most of whom are 17 years of age. Our website (www.earthangelsorg.com) spreads the word about organ donation by telling our own story and the stories of others. We set up booths at local events, including various fairs, performances, and recitals, which display information about organ donation. EarthAngels organized a benefit dance to increase awareness for organ donation, raised money for a three-month-old baby girl who was in need of a liver transplant, and also made a float for the 4th of July parade. Recently, we traveled to Los Angeles to speak at a celebrity fundraiser, called Share the Beat, which emphasized the importance of organ donation.
Through EarthAngels we have reached a lot of people and have convinced some of them to be donors. Our main message to everyone who is considering being an organ donor is to talk to their families. Signing your donor card and checking the back of your driver's license is a good start, but in the end, it is your family that has the final say. Most people are not aware of what being an organ donor can do. When a person dies their vital organs (kidneys, lungs, pancreas, even corneas*) can be used for up to 50 different transplants. By telling our story we hope that we can reach more people and tell them of the importance of organ, blood and tissue donation.
*Valve: a moveable flap of skin found in the heart which opens to allow movement of blood.
*Brain hemorrhage: a large loss of blood in the brain.
*Corneas: the outer covering of the eye.
Transplanting Fiction to Fact
Many people don't donate because of their often false ideas about organ donation and transplants. Here are some facts about organ donations and the difference that one donor can make.
- Over 100,000 U.S. patients are currently waiting for an organ transplant..
- Organ transplant recipients are selected on the basis of medical urgency, as well as compatibility of body size and blood chemistries.
- Two-thirds of the people on donor lists are waiting for a kidney.
How Your Organs Can Help
- Kidneys: help get two people off dialysis* treatments
- Corneas: restore vision to two people
- Bone: helps rescue a limb or a joint with cancer
- Skin: heal burn victims more quickly
*Dialysis: treatment that removes salt, waste and extra water from the body.
Breaking Through the Myths
There are many misconceptions about organ donations which may stop people from becoming a donor. Here is the truth about the top five organ donation myths.
- If I am admitted to the hospital and the doctor knows I am a donor, he will not try as hard to save my life.
Your doctor will do anything to save your life, even if you are an organ donor. There is no conflict between saving lives and using organs for transplantation.
- I am under the age of 18, so I cannot be an organ donor.
You can be a donor, but you must have parent or guardian consent and make sure your family knows about your final decision about your body.
- Rich and famous people are moved to the top of the donor recipient list and "regular" people have to wait even longer.
The organ distribution system is blind to wealth or social status for patients in need of an organ transplant.
- I've decided to become a donor, but now I'm having second thoughts about my decision. It's a long process to be taken off the list.
Not true! It's as simple as tearing up your donor card. Remember, let your family know about your decision.
- Donations will be costly to my family.
There is no cost to the donor's family for organ tissue donation. All costs related to the donation are paid for by the hospital or the recipient's insurance.
Donate, Don't Hesitate
Making the decision to donate is much harder than just checking the box on the back of your driver's license. Many factors must be considered before making your final choice." For example, do you want to donate all of your organs or only a select few? Even though you don't have to figure out the answers to these questions right now, it is definitely important to start thinking about the process so you can be prepared for the future. Remember to also speak with your family about your decision because, in the end, they have the final word.
For More Information
If you're thinking about becoming a donor, or if you are interested in finding out more about the donation process, check out these websites and books.
- To find out how you can become a donor, search for your state requirements at the Donate Life America website: www.shareyourlife.org/CommitToDonation
- The United Network for Organ Sharing assists with finding organs for people on the transplant waiting list: www.unos.org
1 Responses »
Leave a Response