Organ Donation: Giving Life to Others

Organ Donation Image

Organ donation is a modern miracle that gives ordinary people the ultimate opportunity to make a difference in another person's life.

An organ donor actually makes a decision to allow another person to go on living!

How amazing is it to consider that if you are killed in a car crash tomorrow, a part of you could go on living inside a fellow human being thanks to organ donation?!

You don't have to die to be a donor of some body parts. It's not uncommon for someone to donate a kidney; part of a lung, intestine, or pancreas; and now a person can even donate one of the two lobes of their liver! They can do this while they are still living!

Tissue donation by living donors is also common today. Some tissues that can be donated are blood, marrow, blood stem cells, and umbilical cord blood. Both blood and bone marrow can even be donated more than once since they are regenerated and replaced by the body after donation.

It can be hard to think about what's going to happen to your body after you die, let alone organ donation and tissue donation. But being an organ donor is a generous and worthwhile decision that can be a lifesaver.

Do you have a story about organ donation that you would like to share? Are you the recipient of an organ donation? Have you donated a kidney or portion of your liver? If you have an uplifting organ donation story to share, you can do that at the bottom of this page. Please share your story, and maybe you will inspire others to donate their organs!

Facts About Organ Donation

  1. Each day, about 77 people receive organ transplants. However, each day, about 19 people die while waiting for a transplant because of the shortage of donated organs.
  2. Organs are distributed to waiting recipients through the national organ transplant list maintained by the United Network for Organ Sharing based on medical factors such as blood type, size and tissue match. It is illegal to distribute organs based on wealth or celebrity status.

    Tissue is distributed based on patient need, medical criteria and availability.

  3. Acceptable organ donors can range in age from newborn to 65 years or more. People who are 65 years of age or older may be acceptable donors, particularly of corneas, skin, bone and for total body donation.
  4. An estimated 12,000 people who die each year meet the criteria for organ donation, but less than half of that number become actual organ donors.
  5. All hospitals are required by law to have a "Required Referral" system in place. Under this system, the hospital must notify the local Organ Procurement Organization of all patient deaths.

    If the OPO determines that organ donation and/or tissue donation is appropriate in a particular case, they will have a representative contact the deceased patient’s family to offer them the option of donating their loved one’s organs and tissues.

  6. By signing a Uniform Donor Card, an individual indicates his or her wish to be a donor. However, at the time of death, the person's next-of-kin will still be asked to sign a consent form for organ donation.

    It is important for people who wish to be organ and tissue donors to tell their family about this decision so that their wishes will be honored at the time of death.

  7. All costs related to the tissue and organ donation are paid for by the donor program. A family who receives a bill by mistake should contact the hospital or procurement agency immediately.
  8. Image of Organ transplant procedure

  9. Tissue donation can enhance the lives of more than 50 people. Donated heart valves, bone, skin, corneas and connective tissues can be used in vital medical procedures such as heart valve replacements, limb reconstruction following tumor surgery, hip and knee joint reconstruction and in correcting curvature of the spine.
  10. Donor organs and tissues are removed surgically, and the donor’s body is closed, as in any surgery. There are no outward signs of organ donation and open casket funerals are still possible.
  11. Acceptable organ donors are those who are "brain dead" (whose brain function has ceased permanently) but whose heart and lungs continue to function with the use of ventilators. Brain dead is a legal definition of death.
  12. Advances in surgical technique and organ preservation and the development of more effective drugs to prevent rejection have improved the success rates of all types of organ and tissue transplants.
  13. About 94.4 percent of the kidneys transplanted from cadavers (persons who died recently) are still functioning well one year after surgery.

    The results are even better for kidneys transplanted from living donors. One year after surgery, 97.96 percent of these kidneys were still functioning well.

  14. Bone marrow is collected from a pelvic bone using a special needle while the volunteer donor is under anesthesia. The majority of bone marrow transplants are done for leukemia.
  15. People between 18 and 49 make up almost 50% of the national organ donation waiting list.
  16. Approximately 46,000 sight-restoring transplants are performed every year.
  17. Most religious denominations approve of tissue and organ donation as representing the highest humanitarian ideals and the ultimate charitable act.

Liver Transplants

Since this wesite focuses on the liver I wanted to offer some history and information about liver transplantation, and living donor liver transplantation. This information was obtained from the website and helps you realize the amazing regenerative ability of the human liver.

The first human liver transplant was performed in 1963 by a surgical team led by Dr. Thomas Starzl of Denver, Colorado, United States. Dr. Starzl performed several additional transplants over the next few years before the first short-term success was achieved in 1967 with the first one-year survival post transplantation.

Despite the development of viable surgical techniques, liver transplantation remained experimental through the 1970s, with one year patient survival in the vicinity of 25%. The introduction of ciclosporin by Sir Roy Calne markedly improved patient outcomes, and the 1980s saw recognition of liver transplantation as a standard clinical treatment for both adult and pediatric patients with appropriate indications.

Liver transplantation is now performed at over one hundred centers in the USA, as well as numerous centers in Europe and elsewhere. One year patient survival is 80-85%, and outcomes continue to improve, although liver transplantation remains a formidable procedure with frequent complications.

Unfortunately, the supply of liver allografts from non-living donors is far short of the number of potential recipients, a reality that has spurred the development of living donor liver transplantation.

Image of human liver

Living donor liver transplantation (LDLT) has emerged in recent decades as a critical surgical option for patients with end stage liver disease, such as cirrhosis and/or hepatocellular carcinoma. The concept of LDLT is based on the remarkable regenerative capacities of the human liver and the widespread shortage of cadaveric livers for patients awaiting transplant.

In LDLT, a piece of healthy liver is surgically removed from a living person and transplanted into a recipient, immediately after the recipient’s diseased liver has been entirely removed.

Historically, LDLT began as a means for parents of children with severe liver disease to donate a portion of their healthy liver to replace their child's entire damaged liver. The first report of successful LDLT was by Dr. Christoph Broelsch at the University of Chicago Medical Center in November 1989.

Surgeons eventually realized that adult-to-adult LDLT was also possible, and now the practice is common in a few reputable medical institutes. It is considered more technically demanding than even standard, cadaveric donor liver transplantation, and also poses the ethical problems underlying the indication of a major surgical operation on a healthy human being.

In a typical adult recipient LDLT, 55 to 70% of the liver (the right lobe) is removed from a healthy living donor.

The donor's liver will regenerate approaching 100% function within 4–6 weeks, and will almost reach full volumetric size with recapitulation of the normal structure soon thereafter. It may be possible to remove up to 70% of the liver from a healthy living donor without harm in most cases.

The transplanted portion will reach full function and the appropriate size in the recipient as well, although it will take longer than for the donor.

Living donors are faced with risks and/or complications after the surgery. Blood clots and biliary problems have the possibility of arising in the donor post-op, but these issues are remedied fairly easily.

Although death is a risk that a living donor must be willing to accept prior to the surgery, the mortality rate of living donors in the United States is low. The LDLT donor's immune system does diminish as a result of the liver regenerating, so certain foods which would normally cause an upset stomach could cause serious illness.

Any member of the family, parent, sibling, child, spouse or a volunteer can donate their liver. The criteria for a liver donation include:

  • Being in good health
  • Having a blood type that matches or is compatible with the recipient's
  • Having a charitable desire of donation without financial motivation
  • Being between 18 and 60 years old
  • Being of similar or bigger size than the recipient
  • Before one becomes a living donor, the donor must undergo testing to ensure that the individual is physically fit. Sometimes CT scans or MRIs are done to image the liver. In most cases, the work up is done in 2–3 weeks.
Even though the procedure is very safe, all potential donors should know there is a 0.5 to 1.0 percent chance of death. Other risks of donating a liver include bleeding, infection, painful incision, possibility of blood clots and a prolonged recovery. The vast majority of donors enjoy complete and full recovery within 2–3 months.

The National Institutes of Health is in the process of conducting a study to collect information on the outcomes of living donors, of any organs, over time. At present, follow-up reviews of living donors by some transplant centers show that living donors, on average, have done very well over the long term.

However, there are some scientific questions regarding the effects of stress on the remaining organ. There could be subtle medical problems that do not develop until decades after the living donation that are not known at this time because living donation is a relatively new medical procedure.

To ensure the safety of all living donors, it is critical that the long term results of the effects of living donation are studied further.

Organ Donation: How to Donate

Image of Donate Life America Logo

We all want to be remembered - remembered for who we are, what we've accomplished and the difference we've made.

Share your life and, share your decision. Become educated about organ and tissue donation. Discuss it with your family.

It's important to tell your family that you want to be a donor. Hospitals seek consent from the next of kin before removing organs, although this is usually not required if you're registered with your state's donor registry.

The best way to ensure that your wishes are carried out is to put them in writing. Include your wishes in your living will, as well as on your driver's license.

Now you can see that being an organ donor can make a big difference, and not just to one person. By donating your organs after you die, you can save or improve as many as 50 lives.

Something that I find very heart-warming is that many families say that knowing their loved one helped save other lives helped them cope with their loss.

Since laws that oversee donation vary from state to state. It is important for you to know how to ensure your decision to be a donor is carried out.

To find out how to become a donor in your state go to the Donate Life America website for information.

Have A Great Story You Would Like To Share About Organ Donation?

Do you have a story you would like to share with the world about receiving a donated organ?

Maybe someone shared a kidney or a portion of their liver with you, or you shared with another person?

Organ donation is such an emotional issue. Please share your story so others can hear of the compassion that still exist in the world today. You can even include photos if you like!

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