According to Donate Life, there are 119,000 people waiting for an organ or tissue transplant in the United States.
Every 10 minutes, another name is added to that list, and more than 6,500 people die each year while waiting for a critical transplant. Becoming an organ and tissue donor can help save lives. April is National Donate Life Month, a time to consider giving the gift of life and registering as an organ and tissue donor.
Organ and tissue donation helps give others a second chance at life. One donor can help up to 50 people in need. Across the nation, thousands of people are waiting for a match, because organ donors are in short supply. According to Kentucky Organ Donor Associates, 90 percent of people say they support organ donation, but only 30 percent understand the different types of organ donation and how to register.
Transplantation is a medical procedure in which an organ or tissue is removed from one body and placed in another, to replace a damaged or missing body part. Transplants are used in critical cases only. Organs and tissues that can be donated for transplantation include the kidneys, heart, lungs, liver, pancreas, eyes, skin, heart valves, bones, saphenous veins and tendons.
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Those in need of a transplant are placed on the Organ Procurement and Transplantation Network waiting list by a physician. Donor organs are matched and allocated to patients on the waiting list based on severity of illness, blood type and other factors.
Donors are needed for people of all ages, genders and races. Transplants are generally more successful when the donor and recipient are of the same race, so minority donors are important. However, organs can sometimes be transplanted between people of different races, depending on other factors, such as blood type and body size.
Organ and tissue donation can occur after a person has died or while he or she is still living.
Legislation in Kentucky ensures that your wishes to donate will be carried out after death if you register through the organ and tissue donation registry, sign the back of your driver’s license, or specify in legal documents. It is also important to inform your family of your wishes. If you decide to become a donor and then change your mind while you are still living, you may remove your name from the list.
To sign up as a donor in Kentucky, register online at Donatelifeky.org or when you renew your driver’s license.
Dr. Ralph Alvarado is an internist at KentuckyOne Health Primary Care Associates.