Organ donation is a vital topic that touches many lives in North Carolina. But you may wonder, “Exactly what organs can be donated?”

Keep reading for a clear picture of how your decision to donate can offer a second chance at life to those in need. Organ donation is a simple yet profound gesture that has the power to change lives within our community. 

Join us as we answer all your questions about North Carolina organ donation.

1- What organs can be donated in North Carolina?

Becoming an organ donor in North Carolina through organizations like HonorBridge can have a far-reaching impact. Registering as an organ donor with HonorBridge can lead to life-saving and life-enhancing outcomes.

A single donor can save up to eight lives through organ donation and enhance the lives of 75 others through tissue donation.

The life-saving organ transplant of the following donations can each replace failing organs and give recipients a new lease on life:

  • Heart
  • Lungs
  • Liver
  • Pancreas
  • Kidneys
  • Small intestines

Tissue donations are equally important, with common donations including:

  • Skin
  • Bone
  • Corneas
  • Heart valves
  • Veins

These tissues can help treat burn survivors, restore sight, repair heart defects, and help individuals recover from severe injuries.

HonorBridge works with healthcare professionals to evaluate and facilitate the donation of these precious gifts, ensuring they reach those in need.

Find more details about this noble cause at https://honorbridge.org/organ-tissue-donation/.

2- Who is eligible to become an organ donor?

In North Carolina, as in other places, most people can sign up to be organ donors, regardless of age or medical history. Medical professionals determine eligibility for actual donation at the time of death based on current health, condition of the organs, and other factors.

Organ and tissue viability for donation depends critically on the state of the donor at the time of death. Brain death, a condition where the brain has irreversibly ceased all functions, plays a key role in the ability to donate multiple organs. 

When a doctor declares a person brain dead and maintains them on life support, their organs, such as the heart, lungs, liver, and kidneys, remain viable for transplantation. This maintenance is crucial because most organs cannot be donated after the heart stops beating. 

The support systems keep organs in a suitable state for transplantation, ensuring that they can save or enhance the lives of recipients. However, the procurement of organs does not occur while a person’s brain is alive and functioning. The medical support systems keep the body’s blood oxygenated and circulating around the organs, keeping them viable for transplantation to another individual. However, the person dies before organ procurement.

It’s essential to note that having a medical condition does not necessarily disqualify you from becoming a donor. Medical professionals make decisions about which organs and tissues are suitable, considering the needs of potential recipients and the circumstances of the donor’s health.

3- How do I register as an organ donor in North Carolina?

To register as an organ donor in North Carolina, you can sign up when you renew or apply for a driver’s license or state ID or register online through the state’s designated registry.

In North Carolina, the registry is managed by HonorBridge, which is accessible at https://honorbridge.org/

Registering is a simple process that typically involves providing personal information and making your intent to donate official.

4- Can I choose which organs or tissues I want to donate?

Yes, you can specify which organs or tissues you wish to donate. You can let others know when you register as a donor, either through your driver’s license, state ID, or an online donor registry.

In North Carolina, this can be done via the HonorBridge website. It’s essential to communicate your wishes to your family, so they know your decisions.

5- Does my medical history affect my ability to donate organs?

Your medical history does not automatically exclude you from becoming an organ donor. At the time of death, medical professionals review your medical and social history to determine which organs and tissues are suitable for donation.

They will consider factors such as the presence of certain diseases, infections, or the overall condition of the organs. However, even individuals with chronic conditions, such as diabetes or hypertension, can sometimes be donors.

The key is registering your intent to donate and letting the medical experts decide at the appropriate time.

6- Is there any cost to my family for organ or tissue donation?

There is no cost to the donor’s family for organ or tissue donation. The recipient’s medical insurance or the organ procurement organization typically covers all expenses related to the donation process.

The donor’s family pays for the usual funeral expenses unrelated to the donation.

7- Will organ donation affect my funeral plans or the appearance of my body?

Organ donation should not affect funeral plans, including the choice between burial and cremation. The donation procedure is performed with the utmost respect and care, ensuring that the donor’s appearance is maintained for traditional viewing services.

The medical team involved in organ and tissue retrieval makes incisions that are typically covered by clothing. They also employ techniques to preserve the donor’s appearance.

You can discuss specific concerns and funeral arrangements with the organ donation organization and the chosen funeral home.

8- How is the recipient of my organs chosen?

The recipient of donated organs is determined by several factors, including the severity of the recipient’s illness, blood type compatibility, size match of the organ, and the distance between the donor and the recipient.

The goal is to ensure the best possible outcome for transplantation. The United Network for Organ Sharing (UNOS) manages the national transplant waiting list in the United States and utilizes a computerized system to match donors with recipients.

9- Can I be a donor if I have a chronic illness?

Chronic illnesses, like other medical conditions, do not automatically disqualify you from being an organ donor. The key determining factor is the state of the organs at the time of the potential donor’s death. Medical professionals make decisions about donation suitability based on the most current medical conditions.

Even with a chronic illness, you may have some organs or tissues that are still healthy and suitable for transplantation. Medical professionals evaluate each case individually at the time of donation. It’s important to register your intent to donate and communicate your wishes to your family.

10- What happens to my organs if they aren’t suitable for transplant?

If organs are not suitable for transplant due to medical conditions, they may still be incredibly valuable for research purposes. Donated organs can contribute to medical advances by helping researchers understand diseases, develop new treatments, and improve transplant outcomes.

If you have registered as an organ donor, the use of your organs for research is typically considered only after it’s determined that they are not viable for transplant.

11- Will my family be informed or involved in the donation process?

Your family will be informed and involved in the organ donation process. Even if you are registered as an organ donor, healthcare professionals will communicate with your family to ensure they understand your wishes and the process.

It’s important to discuss your decision with your family ahead of time so they are prepared and can support fulfilling your wishes when the time comes.

12- If I’m registered as an organ donor, will it affect the quality of medical care I receive?

Registering as an organ donor does not affect the quality of medical care you receive. Doctors and medical staff prioritize saving your life above all else.

The medical team treating you is separate from the transplant team, and organ donation is only a possibility after all life-saving efforts have been exhausted and medical professionals declare your death. Your decision to donate is not something medical personnel discuss until life support is no longer effective and death occurs.

13- What is the difference between organ and tissue donation, and how can one donor help?

One donor can significantly enhance the lives of others through both organ and tissue donation.

Organ donation typically refers to donating major organs like the heart, kidney, or lung to transplant recipients.

In contrast, tissue donation includes skin, corneas, blood vessels, and cartilage, which can heal multiple patients suffering from various medical conditions.

14- Can living donors participate in organ transplants, and if so, which organs can they donate?

Living donors can participate in living organ donation, most commonly through living kidney donation or a portion of the liver, lung, or intestine. This act can save the lives of transplant patients when a suitable deceased donor is not available.

15- How does directed donation work in the context of living donation?

Directed donation in living donation occurs when a living donor specifies the recipient of their organ, typically a family member or friend.

This type of donation can enhance the match between the donor and the recipient and can lead to better outcomes.

16-What role does the transplantation network play in organ transplants?

The transplantation network, United Network for Organ Sharing (UNOS), manages the national list of patients waiting for a transplant and helps match donors with recipients based on medical urgency, compatibility, and geographic location.

17- If a living donor gives one kidney, can the remaining kidney adjust to maintain the donor’s health?

Yes, if a living donor gives one kidney, the remaining kidney can adjust and compensate to maintain the donor’s health. The human body can live with one kidney, and many kidney donors lead full, active lives after donation.

We Can Help

We all want to make informed end-of-life decisions about organ donation. Our team at Renaissance Funeral Home and Crematory is ready to provide support and clear information to help guide you through these choices.

After a death occurs in a family, navigating the emotions of planning a cremation, memorial, or funeral can feel overwhelming. We are here to help your family as you grieve together and plan for times of togetherness, celebrating the life of your loved one.

Reach out to us, and let’s ensure your questions never go unanswered. Get in touch today and find that we’re here to help.