It’s overwhelming to think there are 100,000 people waiting on the transplant list in the United States
Unfortunately, most of those waiting patients will never get a call saying that a suitable donor can help save their lives.
Nearly 20 people die each day without hearing that call. It might be challenging to think about what will happen to your body after you pass, but tissue and organ donation are generous and worthwhile! Your gift is life-saving.
If you’ve never considered or delayed becoming a donor, possibly because of inaccurate information, read on! This article will discuss the basics of organ donation and bust urban legends that might be holding you back.
What is organ donation and transplantation?
According to the Cleveland Clinic, “Organ donation is the process of surgically removing an organ or tissue from one person (the organ donor) and placing it into another person (the recipient). Transplantation is necessary because the recipient’s organ has failed or has been damaged by disease or injury.” It’s common for organ donation to occur after the organ donor passes away.
The organs and tissues that can be transplanted as the following:
- Middle ear
- Bone marrow
- Heart valve
- Connective tissue
- Vascularized composite allografts
Who can be a donor?
There’s no age limit to being a donor. When an individual dies, their age and medical information are evaluated for suitability. The Organ Procurement Organization (OPO), like Donate Life Texas, determines medical suitability for donation.
How can I become an organ donor in Texas?
If you’re a Texan who wishes to become an organ donor, consider jumping over to DonateLifeTexas.org to complete the registry form to become an organ, eye, and tissue donor.
Donate Life Texas registry does not cover the following:
- Living organ donation
- Living bone marrow,
- Whole-body donation
They suggest checking resources Donate Texas.org for more information about living donations in Texas.
Consenting is COOL.
Consenting to a donation registry is more than an expression of interest. It’s a legal document. When you’re registered, you legally give your consent for organ, eye, and tissue donation after death. As Donate Life Texas suggests, we feel it’s a compassionate step that you can take as an individual to relieve some of the pressure from your loved ones, should you pass.
Get online to register!
When you visit this site to become registered, you will be asked to complete a few simple questions like name, phone, and address.
When you enter your email address, it allows you to receive a registration confirmation and lets you log on anytime you’d like to their site to see updates or change your record.
Head to the DMV:
Another option is to go to a local Bureau of Motor Vehicles (BMV), where you can choose to give an anatomical gift. Once you’ve signed up, your driver’s license will have a little heart in the corner, which makes it easy for emergency medical services to identify your decision right away. Due to organs’ vitality, there’s a small window of time when donation can occur after passing. By carrying your decision with you at all times, you could potentially save a life.
Who should I tell about my decision to become an organ donor?
Your decision to become an organ, eye, and tissue donor is very personal. But it could potentially affect the lives of those you love. It’s essential to share with family members and loved ones that you desire to be a donor. It lets them know your wishes before your passing. Additionally, you might want to share with other key players in your life, like a lawyer, healthcare provider, or religious leader.
Avoid Potential Confusion:
Whether your death comes as a shock or not to your family and loved ones, it’s a good idea to keep confusion out of an emotionally sensitive time as they deal with your loss. Speaking with them about your desire or decision will simplify their responsibilities and provide a bit of comfort in your decisions. Not only do you get your wishes carried out, but a conversation with loved ones allows for an opportunity to answer potential questions. Death and dying are not an easy conversation, making for an uneasy talk. However, an open discussion about how it works can correct inaccurate information about donation and possibly relieve any tension about the subject.
Urban Myths & Stubbornly Persistent Myths:
There are several urban legends and stubbornly persistent myths about organ donation in circulation. Sharissa Stewart, the former Organ Donation Procurement Coordinator, touches on a few of these myths :
Sharissa: Has there been a time when someone granted permission, but the family did not want to? Maybe you could comment here?
“I have been a part of many conversations when a potential donor is registered, but their family objects. This could be caused by grief, thinking they registered a long time ago and changed their mind, religious concerns, or other reasons. Usually, after lengthy discussions with family and the funeral home, everyone is able to come to an agreement and honor the deceased wishes to be a donor.”
Myth: I will receive inadequate health care because I am an organ donor.
Doctors and emergency personnel will do everything possible to save a life regardless of registration status. Many times staff doesn’t even look at donation status until they pass away or have no chance of survival of injuries. Even if the donation is moving forward, you will still receive the best care to ensure the best chance of organ transplant success.
Myth: It’s expensive to become an organ donor. My family will be charged if I donate my organs, eye, or tissues.
“If you choose to save lives and donate, your OPO will work with the funeral home to keep costs from going to the family. Any additional time costs associated in the hospital, transportation, etc. will not go to the family”.
Myth: Organ donation will disfigure my body.
“Many people are concerned about donation affecting their funeral plans. What people should know is that funeral home staff is phenomenal at reconstruction. I have seen patients pass from severe injuries be able to donate every possible tissue and still have an open-casket viewing funeral. Prior to donation occurring, the chosen funeral home is contacted to coordinate a plan”.
Myth: If I donate my organs, I will not contribute my body to research.
“Every research opportunity is different, and many changes over time. I have seen organ and tissue donors still are able to participate in research. Anatomical whole body donation may not allow certain tissue donations, but that will be discussed with the family, and they will have the decision on which route to take. Donation staff wants to honor your and your family’s wishes first and foremost”.
Myth: An open-casket funeral isn’t an option for people who have donated organs.
“Upon donation, the OPO will also provide funeral home staff with supplies to aid in their reconstruction process. If certain tissues could impact the viewing (ex: short sleeve shirt viewing), then upper extremity donation will be avoided to allow funeral plans to proceed”.
Myth: If I’m in an accident and the health care professional knows I’m a donor, they won’t try to save my life.
“When you are in an accident, emergency personnel don’t worry about donation. They are working to save your life. Only once you pass or you won’t have a good survival would the doctors notify donation experts to evaluate. Think of it this way, if a doctor wanted to proceed with a donation, they would want the healthiest organ to be able to transplant. In order to do this, they would need your body to be working as best it is able. If they do everything medically to save you and your body won’t fully recover, only then will donation potentially occurs”.
Myth: Mental Illness on my medical record will prevent me from becoming an organ donor.
“Almost everyone is troubled by illness and disease, mental or otherwise. In no way does this prevent all donations from occurring. If your wish is to be a donor, the donation staff will work with your physicians to do what they can to make it happen. I have seen patients with cancer or types of dementia still be able to donate certain tissues”.
Myth: I am too old to donate my organs, eyes, or tissue.
“Advances in medicine are constantly happening and changing what we thought was possible. Each tissue may have requirements in age or health, but this evolves. The important thing is to register and then trained staff with evaluation to maximize your ability to save lives. I personally have seen donors over 100 years of age be able to give certain tissues and leave an impact”.
Be an inspiration!
Become an organ, eye, and tissue donor and show how your selfless decision might change another’s perspective. Even if your loved ones do not initially agree, it might inspire them to do more research about the subject. Perhaps, over time they might consider registering themselves. If you’re already registered, thank you from the bottom of our hearts. It’s a very selfless act that could potentially save someone’s life.
Again, we want to thank Sharissa for her input into this article. It’s inspiring to have a friend like you. Thank you for all that you do to save lives in this field of work.