I was asked to speak at Wilmington Christian Academy during National Donate Life Month on organ donation and being part of a donor family. Through all the personal experiences and research I felt I should share this information with you. So I have inserted a portion of my speech below.
I would like to ask all of you a question… How many of you watched the super bowl this year?? Okay, well for those of you who did not it was played at the US Bank stadium in Minneapolis, Minnesota. This stadium holds 66,955 people at capacity. Now imagine a second stadium sitting right next to the US Bank stadium it also filled to capacity, that’s 133,910 people, that is approximately how many people are waiting for a life saving organ transplant in the United States today. Every ten minutes someone in the United States is added to the national donor list. That is six people an hour and 144 people a day. Now, on average there are 92 people saved every day with a lifesaving transplant. On the other hand, an average of 20 people a day pass away while still waiting for a transplant. One donor can save up to eight lives, 8! Last year on average over 6000 people a day passed away in the United States from various causes. If everyone in the United States were an organ donor the 20 that pass away daily, while waiting for a transplant would have a fighting chance. In 2016 there were 33,600 transplants and in 2017 there were 34,000. As you can see every year the number rises. The first transplant performed in the United States took place in 1954. It was a living transplant between twin brothers. One brother gave the other a kidney. Since then, mainly starting in 1988, over 683,000 successful transplants have taken place in the United States. There are a lot of variables that come into play when an organ transplant is performed. The recipient patient and the donor patient must match in a variety of different areas, blood and tissue type being the major factors before moving forward. Another factor, if the patients match, is time. There are only hours between patients if a successful transplant is going to take place. For instance, there is a four-hour window on a heart transplant. That’s four hours to get the heart from point A to point B. Imagine if you lived in Hawaii or Alaska and you needed a heart transplant your percentage for getting a heart would be greatly decreased. Even living on an opposite coast would be pushing the envelope for the time allowed. There is some good news on the time line for transplants. While speaking at a meeting in Durham N.C. for Carolina Donors Services I saw a presentation from Duke Medical Hospital. They have a concept for a new device that will double the time allowed to transport a heart for transplant. This new device will add precious hours to save the lives of many, lives that before would not have a chance.
Let’s bring things a little closer to home. In the state of North Carolina there are 3,140 people waiting for an organ transplant. Out of the 3,140, there are 2,686 waiting on a kidney. Since 1988 there have been 21,140 lives saved or changed due to organ transplants. The largest age group for these recipients is 50-64. On the donor side there have been 5,679 donors since 1988. The largest age group for donors are between the ages 18-34. That is 3.72 lives saved per donor. Lindsay was able to save 3 lives, allowed 2 people to see for the rest of their life and help untold numbers of people by having her heart donated for research.
There are many myths concerning organ donation and they are all just that, MYTH’S.
- You can’t be an organ donor if you are too young or too old.
This myth can be disproved by the oldest donor in the world. She was 107 years old, lived in Scotland, and donated her corneas so that someone else could have better sight. The oldest donor in the United States was 92. This donor donated their liver to save a life. Sadly, you are also never to young to be a donor. There have been several new borns that have lost their lives during or shortly after birth that have become donors. No one is too young or too old to be an organ donor; the condition of your organs is more important than age.
- Doctors don’t work with the same urgency to save your life if they know you’re an organ donor.
It is the job, and the passion of every doctor, nurse, and first responder to save lives. They have all taken an oath to perform whatever medical procedures are necessary to save a life. I can assure you this myth is untrue. Lindsay received the best care possible from the second she arrived at the hospital until the second she passed away. There was never a question of her care, or treatment. That care continued after Lindsay passed away, a representative from Carolina Donors Service escorted her into the operating room. There he introduced Lindsay to the entire staff and stayed with her throughout the entire surgery.
- If you’re not in great health, you shouldn’t sign up to be a donor.
You may be surprised that most health conditions do not disqualify you from donating your organs and tissues. While you may not be able to donate certain organs, other organs and/or tissues may be perfectly fine. Doctors and donor personal will assess your organs at the time of death to determine if they can be donated.
- Doctors will take all of your organs, even if you only want to donate one.
Another myth I can put to rest, you or your love ones can specify what organs are to be donated. After the consultation with donor services a legal document is signed stating the specific organs to be donated. And as I stated before, a representative will accompany your love one the entire time.
There is a lot more information concerning myths with organ donation on the DMV website along with Donate Life and Carolina Donor Services. Please feel free to look up and read all the myths about organ donation. If you have any questions or concerns you can contact me or anyone in my immediate family and we will do our best to put your concerns to rest.
Becoming An Organ Donor
You can become an organ donor in a variety of ways. You can go to Carolina Donor Services or Donate Life and register, we were suprised to learn you can register on line from the age of thirteen on up. You can register at the DMV when you get your license, you can even register using your HEALTH app on your iPhone. If you have registered and are passed the age of eighteen the hospital and the donor coordinator does not need your parent’s permission to proceed with starting the process, but as in Lindsay’s case being she was seventeen, the donor services needed our permission. Once you register online or at the DMV it is a legal binding contract, but there is no donor service that will go against the wishes of the family. The time in which a love one has passed away is not the time to force the issue. They are in enough pain and have had their hearts truly broken. This is why what I am about to tell you is the most important part of becoming an organ donor. Have a conversation with your family about what your wishes are. Let them know you are a donor, or want to become a donor. Let them know you want to help save lives, let them know you want to take the pain and devastation and turn it into something positive. As a donor father I will tell you knowing Lindsay was a donor does not help in her loss, it does not help everyday when I miss her so bad it hurts, it does not help when I think about what she could have accomplished, but what it does do, it makes me proud to be her father, it makes me proud that we, as a family, helped fulfill her dream to save lives.
Please, if you are not an organ donor consider becoming one. There are so many lives that are effected by checking that tiny black box.