Death is not something that most enjoy thinking about. Whether it is our own or another’s death, the feelings involved can range from sadness and despair to terror and desperation. We generally try to avoid the topic.
But stay with me because this is important.
You matter. Just one person who is a donor can save 8 entire lives with their organ and tissue donations. If you were on the fence about whether being a donor is worth it or not, let this settle in.
You. Can. Save. Lives. Not just one life, but 8.
How Many are Waiting?
There were 109,000 men, women, and children on the national transplant waiting list in the US as of September 2020 according to organdonor.gov. People of every age, ethnicity, and gender are on the list of people waiting for a life saving gift. Children, teenagers and adults of all ages are not able to live full lives because of their illnesses and injuries.
If more of us were organ donors, we could help so many people share the joy of getting a gift almost larger than life. Can you imagine being bedridden, knowing that there are people who could save you but won’t? Could you also imagine knowing that instead of giving you something they no longer need, people are choosing to burn their gift of life into ashes or bury their gift of life in the ground?
People waiting for organ or tissue transplants are truly some of the most sick and helpless of people. It seems as though they must wonder if anyone cares. 90% of people agree with organ donation but only 60% have actually signed up to be organ donors.
Are you losing your chance to save others because you forgot to check a box?
Who is Waiting?
There are so many people waiting for their lives to begin again. You can read stories of recipients of organ and tissue donation at organdonor.gov.
Learn about Manuel who was struck by power lines and lost his arms and legs in his twenties. He couldn’t even scratch his own head or walk. Because of tissue donation, he was able to receive prosthetics and is now able to take care of himself and owns his own body shop now too.
See how a 5mo old baby girl, Khalieghya, in CA went from life in a hospital with liver failure to a normal and thriving child at home with family and at school with friends. She is a beautiful little girl with a full life ahead of her because someone cared enough to donate.
Or hear Steve’s story. He was born with cystic fibrosis and had only 10% lung capacity for most of his life. He says, “To see on the monitors in the hospital that I was breathing on my own, at 85% lung capacity…that’s when I lost it. I’ve never known that breathing could be this easy, or that life could be this good.”
How Does it Work?
First off, it is important to sign up on the organ donor registry. You can sign up online at www.organdonor.gov or sign up when you get your driver’s license.
OPT Network is Notified
Next, if your death was of the type where your organs or tissues can still be used, the hospital will notify the Organ Procurement and Transplantation Network (OPTN). This network is composed of many community OPT organizations who make it their mission to work with transplant donors and recipients and to spread the word about organ donation.
The local OPT comes to the hospital and first checks your status as an organ donor. They may ask your family or friends if you wished to be an organ donor. They also evaluate you and the healthiness of your organs and whether you are a good candidate for helping others live by donating organs and tissue. Brain death is always determined first to make sure that the person is truly gone. There are regulations in place to protect the lives of potential organ donors and honor their brave choice.
Transplant Surgery Team
Once permission is acquired, according to organdonor.gov, “A transplant surgical team replaces the medical team that treated the patient before death. (The medical team trying to save the patient’s life and the transplant team are never the same team.)
The surgical team removes the organs and tissues from the donor’s body in an operating room. First, organs are recovered, and then additional authorized tissues such as bone, cornea, and skin. All incisions are surgically closed. Organ donation does not interfere with open-casket funerals.
Organs are Transported to Recipient’s Hospital
The organs are transported according to a strict timetable.They go to recipients whose doctors signed up for transplant needs and are listed for each organ with different priorities and different ways of matching to organs. Depending on the organ needed, there are several factors that must match for the donation to be a success. Obviously doctors and everyone involved wants a transplant surgery to be a success so they do everything possible to match organs to appropriate donors. Different organs can handle differing amounts of time outside of the body before they can no longer be used.
If you are an organ donor, there is a one in 3000 chance that you will die in such a way that you can donate and save lives. If you are the one and you haven’t taken the opportunity to let your wishes be known, your gift of life will be wasted in the dirt as your body is buried or burned away at a cremation center.
What is the Experience of a Donating Family?
You can read many inspiring stories of donor families at OrganDonor.gov. Donor families would want you to know that the donation process does not affect whether there can be an open casket service, nor does it make anything about the funeral or memorial process less than what it could be.
Donating can even sometimes help grieving families make more sense of the loss. Let’s focus on just one family whose loved one donated what they no longer needed in order to give life to others.
“In 2005, Tribhawan and Jasmin did not know much about organ donation. But when their 21-year-old son, Anand, suffered fatal head injuries in a car accident, the attending nurse gently encouraged them to consider donation. They agreed and their son’s heart, liver, kidneys, and pancreas were transplanted to save the lives of six people.
“This is a blessing that we were able to make a difference in their lives,” Tribhawan says. “Some of them are having children, some are having grandchildren.”
Tribhawan also urges others to register to become organ donors. “No one knows when they may die, but when you go, you can leave a legacy,” he says. “Should anything happen to you, you will be a blessing to somebody’s family. As long as the sun shines, you will be remembered.” (1)
Deciding to become an organ and tissue donor is a personal choice, but the people who have been involved in this life saving network unequivocally agree that when a life is gone, it is such a gift for them to share what they no longer need so that others can have the hope of a happy healthy life also.
How Can I Help?
You can help by choosing to be an organ and tissue donor, letting others know about your choice, and getting involved in your local OPT network as a volunteer if you so desire. If you have ever spent time in your life sick and helpless or devoid of hope, you understand how miraculous it is to give another the gift of hope for a long and healthy life.
We Honor You
At Renaissance Funeral Home, we hope to educate our community about death and how we can find ways to help others even when we are struggling with the pain and sorrow of a loss ourselves. We know how brave and selfless it is when a family or a person chooses to be an organ donor. We honor you and your choice to give life in the face of death.