April is National Donate Life Month, an opportunity to renew the commitment to save lives through organ and tissue donation. Kentucky Organ Donor Affiliates (KODA), the Kentucky Circuit Court Clerk Association, and many Kentucky hospitals are hosting events to recognize the importance of donation.
Though nearly 1.3 million Kentucky residents over 18 have joined the Kentucky Organ Donor Registry, we can do better. The need for organ and tissue donors is on the rise and is a public health crisis.
How many people are waiting for an organ transplant?
More than 117,000 people nationally, including more than 919 in Kentucky, are currently waiting for an organ transplant. About 134 people are added to the waiting list each day — one every 10 minutes.
Although approximately 77 organ transplants take place every day, on average, 18 patients die each day while waiting because the organ they needed did not become available in time.
At UK HealthCare, 155 patients received organ transplants in 2012, with many of these patients receiving multiple organs.
What is the difference between organ and tissue donation?
Organ donation involves the transplantation of solid organs, such as the heart, lungs, kidneys, liver and pancreas. However, tissue donation is also extremely important. More than 1 million tissue transplants are done nationally each year, and the surgical need for tissue has been steadily rising.
Examples of tissue that can be donated include skin, bone, heart valves, blood vessels, and even corneas. These donated tissues can make a huge difference in the quality of life for many patients.
What is "living donation"?
While most donations will take place after the donor is deceased, it is possible for a living person to donate some organs or tissues. The most common is living kidney donation — because humans have two kidneys, it is possible for a person to donate one kidney. Additionally, lobes of the liver or lungs can be given by a living donor. Tissues that can be donated by a living donor include skin, bone marrow and blood stem cells.
Most living donations take place between family or close friends, but sometimes they do take place between complete strangers.
How can I become an organ donor?
The best way to become an organ donor is to join the Organ Donor Registry. You can do this at the DMV when you renew your driver's license, or join online anytime at Donatelifeky.org.
A single donor can save or improve the lives of more than 50 people through organ and tissue donation. It only takes minutes to join the registry, and your decision could give the gift of life to a patient in dire need.
UK HealthCare and KODA will celebrate this month with an exhibit from 5-8 p.m. on April 19 at Lexington Central Library during the Gallery Hop. The exhibit features life-size canvases created by eight UK transplant recipients that showcase their journey and honor their donors.
Dr. Andrew Bernard is the chair of the Organ Donation and Transplantation Action Council at UK Healthcare.