“Are you an organ donor?” I recently asked this, repetitively, over the course of two hours. It was an enlightening experience to volunteer at the Sierra Donor Services Donate Life booth for the DMV Wellness Fair. People would stroll down the line of booths and as they approached ours, me and the two other volunteers would greet the individuals and ask them, “Are you an organ donor?” Hearing their answers and seeing their expressions was eye opening.
Informational pamphlets and fun Donate Life swag were displayed on our table. If a person showed us their pink donor dot on their license, which means they are registered as an organ donor, they were able to pick a fun Donate Life goodie out of the basket. If they signed up to be an organ donor, there were fun hats for the woman to choose from and a ball cap for the men to have. We would get the occasional attendees, aka “trick or treaters” who would cruise by holding a bag that they were filling up with free gifts. As they stopped by our booth, they unfortunately had no interest in the topic, just adding to the collection in their bag. We would encourage them to take an informational pamphlet. Then when we asked others if they wanted to sign up to be an organ donor, they would say “Sure.” Or, “I’ve been wanting to do this for some time.” While others would give a scared, concerned, or “no way” look when we mentioned organ donation. Some said it was against their religion.
Being a transplant recipient, this topic hits so close to home for me, and my answer is a no-brainer: YES! However, for those who are not personally affected by organ donation and have not talked about it before, they looked apprehensive when we asked, “Are you an organ donor?” I can understand that thinking of this topic could be scary for them as they have not been a part of the miracle of the gift of life like myself. I enjoyed sharing my transplant story with our booth visitors and encouraging them to become an organ donor. It was so exciting to see individuals fill out the donate life form. I am pleased to say that we signed up 25 people to the Donate Life California Registry. That means through those individuals who registered, 200 lives will potentially be saved as organ donors and 1,250 lives will potentially be improved as a tissue donor. Observing peoples’ different reactions instilled in me how important it is and how necessary it is to educate the world on the facts about organ donation.
The following facts about organ, eye and tissue donation are quoted from “Donate Life California’s Fast Fact Handout” and Sierra Donor Services:
FACT: You can save up to 8 lives as an organ donor and improve another 50 lives as a tissue donor.
FACT: Donated organs and tissue may include the following:
Organs – heart, intestines, kidneys, liver, lungs and pancreas.
Tissue – bones, corneas, heart valves, skin, tendons, and veins.
FACT: Tissue is needed to replace bone, tendons and ligaments lost to trauma, cancer and other diseases in order to improve strength, mobility, and independence. Corneas are needed to restore sight. Skin grafts help in the healing of burn patients and often mean the difference of life and death. Heart valves repair cardiac defects and damage.
FACT: People of all ages and medical histories should consider themselves potential donors. Don’t rule yourself out!
FACT: Your medical condition at the time of death will determine what organs and tissue can be donated.
FACT: Organs and tissues are distributed fairly and equitably, based on medical criteria only.
FACT: All major religions support organ, eye and tissue donation as an unselfish act of charity.
FACT: Donation should not delay or change funeral arrangements. An open casket funeral is possible.
FACT: There is no cost to the donor’s family or estate for donation. The donor family pays only for medical expenses incurred before death and costs associated with funeral arrangements.
FACT: In the United States, it is illegal to buy or sell organs or tissue for transplantation.
FACT: It is possible to donate life to others as a living kidney or partial liver, lung, intestine or pancreas donor.
Organ donation is a vital component of our PKD journey. PKD is the 4th leading cause of kidney failure. More than 50 percent of people with PKD will develop kidney failure by age 50. Once a person has kidney failure, dialysis or a transplant are the only options to treat the damage the disease has caused. Since there is no treatment or cure for PKD and the 50% chance parents have of passing PKD on to their children, organ donation is key to us living a fulfilling life with PKD.
I hope these facts helped to educate and comfort you on the organ donation process and decision to become an organ donor. Thank you to everyone who is an organ donor. For those of you in limbo on signing up, I hope this encourages you to do so. Thank you to all of the living donors. I was fortunate to be given the gift of life and a second chance at life. I want that same opportunity for others.
A quote from my friend, Cheri Barton, sums this topic up perfectly. “If you’d be willing to accept any organ, you should be willing to donate one.”
Are you an organ donor? Has this encouraged you to sign up? If so, you can register via this link: donatelife.net/register-now. Have you received a transplant? Any encouragement you can share on the importance of organ donation would be great.