February 14th National Donor Day
What if you were told that your loved one needed a new liver and without it they would die? Five years ago, this was a reality for my family and I. Due to an unfortunate health condition, my younger brother needed a liver and was placed on the list for an organ transplant.
The need for organ donation is great and growing day by day:
- Currently 105,525 people are waiting for the organ transplant
- Approximately 35,000 children are suffering from blood diseases that can be treated only by marrow/blood stem or blood transplant.
- Every two minutes someone in the world needs blood and more than 39,000 units of blood is required every day to save lives.
In 1998, with the support of US Department of Health and Human Service; February 14th (Valentine’s Day) was designated as National Donor Day to increase the awareness of the life that can be saved by donating organs and tissues. It is estimated that 50 lives can be touched and saved if one person becomes the donor of organ and tissue.
While most solid organ and tissue donations occur after the donor has died, some organs and tissues can be donated while the donor is alive. In my brother’s instance, thankfully, my sister met the criteria to be a live donor.
With liver donation, a living donor can donate one of two lobes of their liver. This is possible because just as skin cells grow new skin; liver cells in the remaining lobe of the liver grow or regenerate until the liver is almost its original size. This re-growth of the liver occurs in a short period of time in both the liver donor and liver recipient.
My sister’s generous gift gave my brother a second chance at life.
By deciding to be a donor, you give the gift of hope.
Hope for the thousands of individuals awaiting organ transplants.
Hope for the millions of individuals whose lives could be enhanced through tissue transplants.
Last year alone, organ donors made more than 28,000 transplants possible. Another one million people received cornea and other tissue transplants that helped them recover from trauma, bone damage, spinal injuries, burns, hearing impairment and vision loss.
There are many reasons why people suffer end-stage organ failure needing an organ transplant and why others are not accepted as organ donors. Some reasons are totally out of their control, like being born with a genetic disease or becoming sick from a virus or bacteria. However, there are some things we all can do to help reduce our risk of acquiring a chronic disease that could lead to end-stage organ failure or limit our chances to donate.
Many of the actions we take benefit multiple organs, these include:
- Get a physical assessment of your health status (preventive screening) so you can make a plan to become as healthy as you can be
- Talk to your doctor about
- Your weight and your body mass index (BMI) and what this means for your health
- Your blood pressure and what constitutes a normal range for your age
- Your cholesterol level and what this means for your health
- Your family history of disease and causes of death for your close relatives, then make plans accordingly to address any of these concerns
- Be physically active
- Engage in moderate to vigorous physical activity daily or at least 3 days per week. Even moderate exercise, such as walking, riding a bike, dancing, and swimming can make your heart stronger, help to keep your weight in check, reduce high blood pressure, and reduce stress
- Eat a lot of high-fiber foods including whole grains and at least five fruits and vegetables a day
- If you have stress in your life, look for ways to reduce it
- Do not smoke. If you don’t smoke, don’t start. If you smoke, try to quit and don’t quit quitting
- Don’t abuse drugs and alcohol
- Get enough sleep
Remember giving yourself the gift of good health is a beautiful gift not only for yourself,
but for those who love you!
HOW TO BECOME A DONOR
The most important thing to do is to sign up as an organ and tissue donor in your state’s donor registry.
To cover all bases, it’s also helpful to:
- Designate your decision on your driver’s license
- Tell your family about your donation decision
- Tell your physician, faith leader, and friends
- Include donation in your advance directives, will, and living will
For more information on organ donation, please visit organdonor.gov.