Gift of Life Fri, 04 Jan 2019 12:22:45 +0000 en-US hourly 1 32 32 125493558 Kidney Paired Donation Fri, 03 Aug 2018 15:26:59 +0000 While so many advancements have been made in the field of renal medicine over the last twenty years, there is still no escaping the fact that renal failure is a life-changing illness.

In 1950, the first kidney transplant from a cadaver was performed, the transplanted kidney functioning for 53 days before being rejected by the patient’s body and removed. In 1954, the first successful kidney transplant operation was performed.

One of the newborn twins was dying from total kidney failure, so one kidney was taken from the healthy twin and transplanted onto the ailing one. The major reason for optimism here was through the lack of likely rejection of the transplanted organ as they were identical twins, rejection at the time being the major reason for kidney transplant failure

Curiously, while today we see ‘live’ donation of kidneys and parts of livers (the liver being the only organ in the body capable of regeneration, where a donation of 25% of a liver can grow to full size and functionality) as relatively ‘commonplace’, back in the 1950s live donation created considerable moral and ethical conflict for doctors and surgeons.

The Hippocratic oath taken by all medical students does not actually contain the phrase “first, do no harm”, but it underpins the whole ethos of the medical profession. Consequently, they struggled with the scenario where to save one patient, they had to ‘harm’ another.

As mentioned, rejection of the transplanted kidney was a hurdle that proved difficult to overcome. Initially, high doses of radiation were used to destroy the body’s defense mechanism against ‘foreign bodies’, though sadly such levels of radiation were so high that many patients died from radiation poisoning. However, the discovery of Imuran as an immunosuppressant, originally developed to fight leukemia, plus the development of tissue typing in 1960, along with the same lines as blood typing, saw a giant leap taken in the number of more successful kidney transplants.

Kidney transplants today

Jump forward to 2015 and for the first time, the number of kidney transplants in the U.S. exceeded 30,000 for a one-year period. However, this doesn’t solve the problem that currently over 120,000 patients are on the waiting list for a kidney transplant in the U.S.

While the success rates for kidney transplant operations are high, according to the Mayo Clinic:

  • Failure of the transplanted kidney is reported in about 4 percent of deceased-donor kidney transplant recipients within one year after transplant and in 21 percent of cases five years after transplant.
  • Among living-donor kidney transplant recipients, failure rates are about 3 percent at one year and 14 percent at five years after transplant.

What surprises many is that even if successful, a kidney transplant still has a limited lifetime. On average:

  • A kidney transplant from a deceased donor has an average lifetime of 8-10 years.
  • A kidney transplant from a living donor has an average lifetime of 15 years.

On average, 80% of kidneys transplanted are currently from deceased donors and 20% are from living donors.

Kidney Paired Donation

Once the ethical hurdles relating to living kidney donation had been overcome, and further advances had been made in terms of anti-rejection medication – ciclosporin today being the most well-known –  the number of living kidney donations increased dramatically. However, it was not until 2010 that the Organ Procurement and Transplantation Network (OPTN) was first piloted as a means to pair non-compatible organ donors with compatible recipients, thus allowing for kidney paired donation.

Kidney paired donation involves individual pairs of kidney donors and recipients who are initially not a match, but as a group, matches can be created.

The simplest kidney paired donation involves two couples. As can be seen in the diagram at the beginning of this article, here recipient R1 has a kidney donor D1, but D1’s kidney is not a match for R1.

Similarly, recipient R2 has a donor, D2, whose kidney is not a match for R2. However, where D2’s kidney is found to be a match for R1 and D1’s kidney is a match for R2, two transplants can still take place.

In the first instance of a kidney paired donation, according to the HRSA:

Rebecca Burkes of St. Louis had intended to be a living donor for her fiancé, Mr. Crowder, and Cathy Richard of Henniker, N.H., had planned to donate to her sister-in-law, Ms. Niedzwiecki — only to find that both were medically incompatible with their intended recipient. But in the first paired donation arranged through a national pilot program of the Organ Procurement and Transplantation Network (OPTN), Ms. Burkes was able to donate to Ms. Niedzwiecki and Ms. Richard became a donor for Mr. Crowder.

At the time, OPTN’s President said:

Paired donation is helping the transplant community help people who otherwise could not get a living donor transplant. We’re proud to be able to coordinate these for the first time using a national network for potential matches among 77 participating transplant programs.

Kidney paired donation has become a partial solution to the perennial problem of a shortage of available kidneys suitable for donating.

Unlike the totally philanthropic anonymous donation of a kidney to an unknown recipient, OPTN and paired kidney donation ‘piggybacks’ of the altruistic desire for a kidney donor who will do anything to see their initially intended recipient of their kidney, usually a husband or wife, brother, sister or a very close friend, regain their health.

Prior to 2010, if the intended donor and recipient turned out not to be a suitable match owing to tissue incompatibility, that would be the end of the story.

As you will see from the diagram above, kidney paired donation need not take place solely between two pairs of donors and recipients. The remarkable thing about paired kidney donation is that not every transplant has to happen on the same day.

From a practical point of view, a kidney earmarked for transplantation can remain viable for up to 30 hours once removed from a living donor. In addition, in 2007 the first transplants took place where donors and recipients were not operated on in the same hospital, which paved the way for the creation of the OPTN.

To take this to an extreme, according to, a series of 34 transplants took place in 26 hospitals across the U.S. over a three-month period.

What kidney paired donation has also proved highly successful with is helping patients with high antibody levels (sensitized) who struggle the most to find a match and in fact 16 of the 35 recipients in the above chain were highly sensitized.

Kidney paired donation has helped over 10,000 people regain their health from life-threatening and certainly a life-shortening renal failure, which is remarkable in itself. However, it does not change the fact that there is still a massive shortage of kidneys and why the waiting list for a transplant has over 120,000 people on it.

One other way to reduce the size of this waiting list is for more people to make it clear on their driving license that they wish to be an organ donor, and for more people to make it clear to their next of kin, friends, and relatives that in the unfortunate event of their death, they wish to be an organ donor.

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Surprising Organ Donation Facts You Should Know Mon, 30 Jul 2018 08:30:58 +0000 In your lifetime you might have spent so much money on giving gifts to your near and dear ones. The joy that you get by looking at the expression of the recipients of the gift would have certainly made your day. However, do you know that there is a bigger gift that you can give to mankind?

There is no gift as precious as life, and that is exactly what you can gift people with when you opt for voluntary organ donation. Organ donation is the gift of a lifetime that you can give to people who are in dire need of certain organs in their body.

What is organ donation?

The process of donating solid organs and biological tissues of the body to a living recipient who needs his organs to be transplanted is known as organ donation.

In most cases, the recipients need the transplant because their original organs have failed due to some long-term diseases or due to certain injuries caused by accidents.

In such cases, if the organs get replaced by means of transplantation, it would save the life of the concerned patient, as not many people can survive for long without properly functioning organs.

Talking of tissues, the cornea from the eye, valves of the heart, cardiovascular tissues, soft musculoskeletal tissues, and skin are some of the things who can help in saving or improving someone’s life.

Why is organ donation important?

There are so many people around the world who are suffering from organ failures and waiting for their organs to get transplanted. In the US alone, this figure is more than 120,000.

As per records, every ten minutes a new name gets added to the national transplant waiting list and every day about 22 people die because their failing organs could not be transplanted on time.

The organ donation facts and figures are more or less similar in all the developed nations around the world. The number of people on waiting list for getting donor organs in Australia is more than 1,400 and that in Canada is more than 4,500.

In Asian countries, the situation is even worse. The number of people waiting to get organs transplanted in India is a whopping 500,000 and the figures are not very encouraging in other Asian countries like China or Japan.

The reason behind such a high number of people on waiting lists is because not many people choose to donate their organs after their death. Against a required number of almost 120,000 people in the US who need life-saving organ transplantation, there are only 30,000 transplants that could are being performed annually.

This huge gap is there because people are not willing to become organ donors, which is increasing the gap between demand and supply.

About 2.6 million people die in the US every year. Even if half of them register themselves for organ donation, imagine the number of lives that can be saved every year!

The death toll of the nation would be cut down to less than half of what it is now and people would not have to endure the pain of losing their family members just because they did not get an organ for transplantation on time.

One donor can save up to 8 lives

It is definitely a very encouraging fact that one organ donor has the potential to save as many as eight lives. Not only this, the same individual donor can aid in saving or improving the lives of another 50 people if they donate their tissues and eyes as well.

You would be overwhelmed to know that there are 39 million people who are blind all around the globe. With about 150,000 people dying every day all around the world, if everyone would donate their eyes, the world would be left with no blind people within a matter of fewer than 9 months!

If so much can be achieved by just donating the cornea of the eyes, you may want to spend a minute wondering how many lives can be saved or improved if everyone pledges to donate organs after their demise.

 What are the factors that decide the allocations of donated organs?

Unlike other spheres of life, there is no special consideration for people with celebrity status or huge bank balance when it comes to getting organs for transplantation.

The factors that decide on who will be receiving the donated organs include the amount of time the person has been on the waiting list, the severity of the illness, the blood type of the patient and the relative distance between the recipient and the donor.

Whether they are rich or they are poor, every human life is precious and that is why such an unbiased approach of receiving a transplant is being practiced all throughout the country.

Types of donors

There are two types of donors:

  1. Living Donor
  2. Deceased Donor

Organs which are taken from living donors are usually renewable tissues, cells or fluids or partial organs wherein the remaining part of the organ would be able to carry out the functions of the donated organ without causing any impact on the overall health of the donor.

In the case of deceased donors, the organ donation happens from donors who are either brain dead or non-heart-beating donors whose heart has ceased to pump. In cases of brain death, although the heart may be still pumping with the aid of ventilator machines, in reality, the patient’s brain dies completely without any chances of recovery.

While many people think this to be a state of coma, but brain death is something different than a coma. In the case of a coma, there are chances that the person would revive and get back to his healthy life. However, in the case of brain death, there is no way that dead cells of the brain would become alive again.

Practically speaking, while it may sound heartbreaking for the family members of the patient but it is a harsh fact that when the brain dies, the person also dies without any chances of coming back to life again.

It is in these cases when the doctors carry out the organ donation procedures if the deceased person had registered himself to be an organ donor.

What organs can be donated?

There are about 25 different organs and tissues which can be donated for the purpose of transplantation. While most of these organs can be donated only after the death, there are some organs that can be donated while the donor is alive as well.

The organs that can be donated by a living donor include:

  • One kidney
  • Part of the pancreas
  • A portion of the liver
  • Part of the intestine
  • A small portion of hip bones

The organs which can be donated by deceased donors include the following:

  • Heart
  • Kidneys
  • Liver
  • Pancreas
  • Lungs
  • Thymus
  • tendons
  • Bones
  • Skin
  • Intestines
  • Heart valves
  • The cornea of the eyes
  • Islets of Langerhans
  • Stem cell or bone marrow
  • Blood transfusions and blood vessels

The organs which are donated by deceased donors need to be transplanted at the earliest as the cells begin to die otherwise. While cornea and bone transplantations can be done within 24 hours, solid organs like the liver, heart or kidneys have to be transplanted within a period of 4 hours.

8 organ donation facts

  1. Anyone at the age of 18 or over can register as an organ donor.
  2. If the donor is under 18 years old, a written consent is required.
  3. In the US, the success rate of organ transplantation surgeries is about 80-90%.
  4. When a registered organ donor gets hospitalized with a life-threatening condition, they are provided best possible medical care by the staffs at the hospital.
  5. The donation of organs does not cost anything to the family of the donor.
  6. Deceased donors can still have funerals in open casket.
  7. To register as an organ donor, you can select ‘Yes’ to organ donation when you apply for your driver’s license.
  8. You can also enroll for organ donation by registering with the donor registry of your country.
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10 Pros and Cons of Organ Donation Thu, 19 Jul 2018 11:08:00 +0000 Although organ donation is vital to our health care system, many individuals still feel unnerved when they first receive the organ donation form. For many, this is when they get their first driver’s license and subsequently with every license renewal thereafter. However, because most individuals are not properly educated on how organ donation works, whom it benefits, what the benefits are, and what the negatives are, many don’t opt-in.

Rather, the form often elicits a passive response of consideration but then gets tossed aside and often forgotten. Namely, this is due to the topic being a tricky one to talk about or consider because of the implications it has. With this said, read on to find out who can donate and what the benefits and negatives of organ donation entail.

Who Is a Good Candidate For Organ Donation

Almost anyone can become an organ donor, but for those who are under the age of eighteen, must have a parent present when giving their permission or else they must have guardian consent.  Generally, anyone is a good candidate, permitting that he or she does not have actively spreading cancer, a severe infection, or HIV/AIDS. When going to donate an organ, one must go through a testing and evaluation before getting the green light.

Typically, the donor should have a similar blood type and tissue type, and when possible be an exact match. However, most recipients will receive a special treatment to prevent their body from rejecting the organ, tissue, or donated blood. Organs and tissues that can be donated include the liver, kidney, skin, bone marrow, bone, lungs, intestines, heart, pancreas, heart valves, middle ear, cornea, and connective tissue.


1. Saving lives

There are hundreds of thousands of people who are waiting for an organ donation and one organ donor can end up saving up to eight of these lives as critical organs like the heart, kidneys, and liver can be matched to those in need.

2. It provides family consolation/closure

If an individual passes away unexpectedly or dies out of a tragedy, them being an organ donor can actually provide their family with some closure and consolation. In knowing that your family member or friend has donated a part of themselves to someone else, there can be an understanding that their life was not lost in vain. It also helps connect the family to new individuals who have been saved because of the passing of their loved one.

3. You contribute to medical research opportunities

If for some reason an organ cannot be helpful to someone straight away, the organ or the body can be donated to scientific research. This is especially helpful in understanding rare diseases, genetic conditions, and illnesses that are rarely seen. An organ of someone who has an ailment as such can also help others who are suffering from the same condition.

4. You Give Someone a Second Chance

Those who are waiting on an organ transplant are often on treatment plans that help them extend their life. These can be costly, require multiple treatments and trips to the doctor and may require them to have constant medical attention. When an organ is donated, you give them a second chance at living a relatively normal life, one that possibly doesn’t have costly procedures and multiple trips to the doctor.

5. You Can Help Someone Right Now

If you are an exact match for someone on the transplant list, you may become a living donor and help them right now. Living donations can be done for portions of the liver, the kidneys, portions of the lung, pancreas, and intestinal tissues. If you would prefer to not donate an organ but still want to be a living donor, choose to donate blood.


1. It Can Extend the Family’s Grieving Period

Unfortunately, for an organ donation to be successful, the family of the organ recipient may need to keep them on extended life support, which can prolong the grieving period. When a family member or friend is kept on life support, it can provide a false sense of hope or presence of life which can make the grieving process stronger and harder to go through. Organs are not donated until an individual has been pronounced as brain dead.

2. Not everyone is an eligible organ donor

Although anyone can go through the process of becoming an organ donor, not everyone will be eligible to provide specific organs as there are age restrictions in place. For instance, someone who wants to donate a heart valve, cannot if they are not younger than sixty years of age. Someone who is over the age of eighty cannot donate their corneas. Individuals who have actively spreading cancer within the past year cannot donate at all, as is the same for those who are HIV positive.

3. Organ donation can cause health problems

Not only can organ donations cause complications with surgery but for some people, surgery will require a lifestyle change. If that lifestyle change is not followed, this can cause other health problems. For instance, those who donate a kidney will no longer be able to consume alcohol, or those who donate bone marrow may be restricted from participating in certain activities.

4. Not every organ will be accepted

Unfortunately, organs do get rejected by the body and it can be tough knowing that one must take immunosuppressants for the rest of their life just to stop their body from rejecting the organ that has saved their life.

5. Employers do not always have donor leave policies

When considering donating an organ, knowing employee policies around paid and unpaid leave is critical since being an organ donor is expensive. Some U.S states do not have donor leave policies which may heavily sway your decision to become an organ donor.

All in all, the best thing you can do if you are considering becoming an organ donor is to learn more about how the system works and what the benefits are. By becoming educated on the subject, you can make an informed decision on whether you would like to donate your body to medical research, provide your organs for donation, or opt out completely.

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Kidney Transplant Recovery Tips Sun, 18 Mar 2018 00:14:55 +0000 After returning home following a kidney transplant, you will want to resume your healthy living. Kidney transplant patients can live a normal life. The key to success here is understanding your limitations and practicing moderation.

Initially, you will have less energy. Note that it usually takes time for the body to heal and adapt to the medications after a transplant. This content answers several questions about recovery after receiving and donating a kidney.

What is Emergency Medical Identification?

After receiving a kidney, you must wear a medical identification necklace or bracelet all the time. Indicate on the document that you have received a kidney. Include your doctor’s phone number on the form. If the patient is a child, his or her parents’ or guardian’s must include their names and contact phone number.

How Do I Handle My Prescriptions?

Your transplantation team may recommend a pharmacy that will provide your monthly medications to your home. The insurance agency that issues your medication plan will pre-approve using this service.

Note that many drugs will counteract with the immunosuppressants, which is why you must consult with your transplant team before taking new medications or altering your dosage requirements for immunosuppressants.

Is it OK To Exercise After A Transplant?

Exercise is important for transplant patients and enables a faster return to their routine ultimately helping them maintain an improved overall health. It will help control your cholesterol levels, weight, and blood pressure.

Exercise releases tension helps to boost energy and encourages positive lifestyle habits (like maintaining a healthy dietary plan).

When Should I Return To School or Work After Receiving A kidney?

Although after the transplant you will need to make a full recovery before any other thing, you should return to work or school two months after the operation. Your transplant team can also decide the best option for you.

When Can I Start Driving Again After A Transplant?

You won’t be allowed to drive for two to four weeks following the transplant. Speak with your doctor before driving after your transplantation.

Traveling After a Transplant

You cannot travel in the first two or three months after the operation. If you are traveling to an underdeveloped country consult your doctor regarding which vaccinations you can take and the kind of food and water in that area that you must avoid.

Why is Routine Self-examination Important After A Kidney Transplant?

Developing cancers is common when taking immunosuppressants. For this reason, a monthly testicular and breast self-examination as well as going for routine medical check-ups is recommended. PAP smears, testicular exams, breast exams, and skin cancer screening must be done yearly by your physician.

What is Organ Rejection?

Organ rejection is the most essential and common complication that can occur after a transplant. Because you weren’t born with the transplanted organ, your body will see this new tissue as foreign and will attack it to protect you.

The Types of Organ Rejection

  • Acute Rejection: Typically occurs during the first year following a transplant and is usually successfully treated.
  • Chronic Rejection: This type of rejection occurs slowly over an extended period and treatment is often unsuccessful.

What are Anti-rejection Medications And Why Are They Important To A Kidney Recipient?

Anti-rejection medication also known as immunosuppressants typically decrease the body’s immune response to foreign bodies (a transplanted kidney). These medications lower your immune system thus preventing your body from rejecting the transplanted kidney.

Kidney rejection is difficult to diagnose especially in the early stages. Never quit your medication no matter how great you feel or if you think the transplanted kidney is functioning optimally because stopping or missing these drugs can result in rejection.

Do Immunosuppressants Have Adverse-effects?

Anti-rejection medications come with several side-effects which are typically manageable. Blood levels will need to be checked regularly to avoid rejection and lessen the side-effects. If there are any side-effects, your physician can change the dosage or medications.

The most common adverse-effects of immunosuppressants include high blood pressure, weight gain, increased the chance of infections, and the risk of several cancers.

How Can I Maintain A Healthy Lifestyle After Receiving A Kidney?

Discovering and treating infections early is the ideal way to stay healthy. Exposure to infections like flu or pneumonia will make you critically ill. Receiving vaccines as prescribed by your transplantation team can also help you keep your transplanted kidney healthy. It is paramount to do the following if you want to live a healthy lifestyle and avoid infections:

  • Regularly wash your hands.
  • Maintain good hygiene especially around your pets.
  • Don’t get too close to people with contagious diseases.
  • Avoid close contact with recently vaccinated children. Make sure that no one in your home gets the nasal influenza vaccination.
  • Practice safe food handling.
  • Make sure your doctor is informed well in advance about any travel plans you may have.

What Are The Chances of Developing New-Onset Diabetes Following A Transplant?

The chances of developing new-onset diabetes after transplantation will be higher for people who are overweight. Your chances are increased if there are others who are diabetic in your family.

New-Onset Diabetes

Even if you didn’t have diabetes prior to the operation, you might develop diabetes after your transplant. This kind of diabetes is known as new-onset diabetes and usually occurs as a side effect of organ rejection medications.

How Can I Know My Blood Sugar?

Your blood sugar levels should be monitored while you are in hospital following the transplant. If needed, your doctor will help to develop a plan that will help you checkmate your blood sugar levels.

How Can I Keep My Blood Sugar in Check If I Have Diabetes?

Your transplantation team will tell you how to manage your blood sugar levels. High blood sugar can be managed by:

  • A carbohydrate-controlled die.
  • Diabetes medication.
  • Exercise.

What Are The Chances of Developing Heart Disease After Receiving A Kidney?

Patients who receive kidney transplants are typically at greater risk of developing heart disease. You can reduce your chances of developing heart disease after the operation by:

  • Controlling your blood pressure.
  • Managing your cholesterol and blood lipid levels.
  • Quit smoking.
  • Routine exercise, as specified by your physician.
  • Maintain a healthy weight by sticking to a healthy dietary plan.
  • If you are diabetic, make sure it is well controlled.

What Are The Chances of Developing High Blood Pressure After Transplantation?

If you already had high blood pressure prior to getting your transplanted kidney, the chances are that it will likely continue after your operation. High blood pressure may also be triggered as a side-effect caused by the use of anti-rejection medications.

It can also be a sign of organ rejection or being overweight (typically due to weight gain after your transplant).

How Can My Blood Pressure Be Controlled?

Your physician will help you keep your blood pressure in check after transplantation. High blood pressure can be typically managed by doing the following:

  • Maintaining a healthy weight by practicing regular exercise.
  • Consuming low salt diet.
  • Using blood pressure medication.

What Are The Chances of Getting Anemia After A Transplant?

Following receiving a kidney transplant you might start to develop anemia (also known as reduced production of red blood cell) due to the operation, a side-effect of the medication, abnormal breakdown of red blood cells, infection, or organ rejection.

Use of blood pressure medication can also cause the body to produce fewer amounts of red blood cells. Mild anemia can result in minor issues like tiredness and pale skin. If untreated, anemia can lead to a lower amount of oxygen getting to the organs ultimately resulting in serious health problems like heart failure.

How Can I Cope With Anemia?

If you develop anemia, your physician may prescribe an increased intake of iron supplements or other medications. Note that there are many options for iron pills; if you don’t tolerate one iron supplement, speak to your doctor about other choices.

He or she will help you decide the best treatment for your condition. It is also crucial to maintain a healthy dietary plan.

Recovery After Kidney Donation

Recovery after organ donation is less demanding than that of someone who received an organ. It is a straightforward process.

How Long Does it Take To Recover And Return To My Normal Activities After Donating A Kidney?

The length of time that a donor needs to stay in the hospital and recover varies depending on each donor’s recovery rate and the kind of surgery performed although the usual range of time to stay in the hospital is four to six days.

Since recovery varies among individuals, make sure you ask the transplant center to give you an estimate of your recovery time. After returning home from the hospital, you will typically feel itching, tenderness, and pain, as the incision were the surgery, was conducted on continues to heal.

Heavy lifting isn’t recommended for at least six weeks after surgery. It is crucial for a donor to talk to the transplantation staff about the best possible ways to return to normal life as quickly as possible.

Does Living Donation Have Any Impact on The Donor?

A donor can live a healthy life with just a single kidney as long as they are thoroughly evaluated and cleared for donation. When one kidney is removed, the size of the remaining single kidney will increase to compensate for the loss of one kidney.

Physical exercise is recommended. However, it is essential for people with one kidney to protect it from any form of injury.

Some doctors feel that it is better to avoid sports like football, martial arts, boxing, hockey, soccer, or wrestling. Using protective gear like padded vests under your clothing can help you protect the single kidney from injury. Donors are encouraged to initiate a good medical follow-up on the long-term with their primary care physician.

Are There Any Long-Term Risks Associated With Organ Donation?

Yes, there are several reasons for risks associated with donation. You will have a permanent scar from the operation. The location and of this scar will rely on the kind of operation you have.

Several donors have reportedly experienced long-term issues with pain, hernia, nerve damage, or intestinal obstruction. The risks may seem rare, and there isn’t any national statistical data on these problems. However, people who have only one kidney are at a higher risk of developing:

  • High blood pressure.
  • Reduced kidney function.
  • Proteinuria.

Discuss these risks with the transplant team before moving forward. Ask for specific stats related to these issues if there are any available.

What if I Donate A Kidney And Need a Transplant Later?

Potential donors must discuss with the transplantation team about this issue. Tell your doctors about any pre-existing medical condition or factors that can put you at a greater risk of getting kidney disease. Consider the outcome of this decision carefully before deciding about donation. There have been several cases where living donors eventually needed a kidney (not necessarily caused by the donation).

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Organ Donation Statistics 2018 Tue, 13 Feb 2018 02:47:26 +0000 Organ Donation saves and transforms lives. One donor can make a huge difference in multiples of people’s lives.

In this post, I will list some organ donation statistics for the year 2018.

Organ Donation Statistics

What can you do to help?

There are many ways you can contribute in order to save many lives. Some of the ways are:

  • Sign-up as an organ donor by clicking here if you are in the United States, or here if you are in the United Kingdom
  • Share this post on social media.
  • Educate your family members and friends about the importance of registering as an organ donor.
  • Volunteer at your local organ donation organization.


Donate Life America

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5 Myths about Bone Marrow Donation You Should Know Tue, 16 Jan 2018 21:12:03 +0000 The concept of bone marrow donation has been misconstrued by a myriad of people who are either misinformed or simply find some sort of comfort in myths and misconceptions that seem to make a lot of sense to them. This could be a serious problem as it could affect many people negatively when they are asked to save lives which will not compromise theirs.

What it means, in other words, is that when a potential donor holds such baseless sentiments, people could die and families and lives ruined in the process. This is obviously bad. So it is very important to understand what it is about and some myths that may sound reasonable.

Bone marrow is a soft tissue located inside certain bones in the human body that stem cells are produced is called the bone marrow. If a disease affects the ability of the bone marrow to produce healthy cells (blood), a bone marrow transplant is carried out to fix the problem for such patients.

And this transplant is very safe and effective in dealing with the problem for patients. Also, donors have nothing to worry about too.

That being said, bone marrow transplants are often used to treat blood cancers e.g. multiple myeloma, lymphoma, and leukemia. You could see how important this donation is to save lives.

Sadly, some common myths stop some people from registering as potential donors. Here are bone marrow donation myths that you ought to know:

Myth 1: The donation of bone marrow may have long-term health implications (consequences)

It is good to save someone’s life especially when that person is a loved one. But it would be bad if it is done at the expense of yours. Besides, no loved one will want you to sacrifice your life to save theirs, right? That will be selfish and inconsiderate, obviously.

So if you think that bone marrow donation will have long-term health consequences for the donor, you should think again as it has no long-term health implications for donors. It will be good to lead with that. This is the right time for you to discard this myth.

What actually happens is the donation of stem cells are harmless for the donors, relatively speaking of course (as I have said). What you should know is that bone marrow level typically returns to normal in about a few weeks.

Once the donation has been done, it would normally take a few weeks for the donor to get back to his/her daily activities whether it is going to work or any other activity. So it is just a myth to think that you will suffer some kind of health complications.

And some go as far as to think that they could die younger if they do a donation! It is scientifically untrue to assume or say that bone marrow donors have a shorter life expectancy.

Always keep this in mind if you want to make a donation and are scared and may think that it is a bad idea: if the well-trained professionals (doctors) think that it is dangerous to your health, they would not want you to go through with it because it will mean replacing one life for another! See how that sounds when you say it out loud?

However, you may experience muscle aches, fatigue, bone pain, vomiting, nausea, and headache in the short term. Do not be alarmed by all these. What is the cause of all these symptoms?

The drug (Filgrastim) used in the in a peripheral stage of the process could cause a wide variety of symptoms. So do not worry, you will live. It is just some minor discomfort that will last for a short time.

Additionally, Filgrastim is not the only drug used in stem cell donation that might show some signs of contraindication. Anesthesia is another drug used.

Most people feel weak or tired due to the use of Anesthesia. This is totally normal if it happens for a few days as it is meant to put you to sleep during the extraction of the stem cells.

Also, bone marrow donation can cause hip or back pain for some days or weeks—as the case may be. And you could add bruising, fatigue, and headache to the list.

But you rest assure that you will recover fully from all this with no long-term health complications that could jeopardize your life as some people are misled to believe and end up backing out of it.

Myth 2: Bone marrow is painful

It is also quite normal if you are worried about pain. Before you jump to conclusions after making wrong assumptions about something you have very limited knowledge about, you should not worry about this also.

To give you a brief introduction of the methods used in bone marrow donation (and why you should not worry about pain), you should know that there are two ways you can go about donating stem cells: bone marrow donation or peripheral bloodstream donation.

Peripheral stem cell method involves the extraction of stem cells from the bloodstream by using an outpatient, nonsurgical procedure. This procedure is called Aphaeresis. Donors are given a drug (Filgrastim) that increases the number of stem cells in his or her blood prior to the donation.

This drug is injected five days after which the blood will be removed through a needle in one arm and streamlined to the body through another needle inserted in the other hand. And patents are allowed to go home the same day that the donation was made which usually takes 4-8 hours on a day or two days.

On the other hand, stems cells are collected from the pelvic bone by the use of a syringe in the bone marrow donation. General Anesthesia is administered first before the extraction will take place. This will prevent the donor from experiencing pain during the process.

This process takes up to two hours, typically speaking. This is why the donor may experience some pain in the back for a few days. It could take up to weeks for some people. Unlike the first method, the donor could spend up to 12 hours in the hospital.

You could see that the process is not painful that should cause serious concern to you. Moreover, the level of discomfort usually varies from person to person or from method to method.

Myth 3: Bone marrow is extracted from the spine

This is not true. Bone marrow is not extracted from the spine. The least likely used method involves the pelvis by the use of a special syringe. The pelvis is not the spine, so no need to worry about losing functionalities in one part of your body if it goes sideways. All the methods used are safe with precise outcomes predicted by doctors.

Besides, the method that is mostly used is peripheral blood stem cell method of donation (about 75% of cases). And as you already know, blood stem cells are collected from the bloodstream.

Myth 4: Bone Marrow Donation is Expensive

Are you worried that bone marrow is expensive and unaffordable for most people (donors)? If you are, then you are misled into believing a myth! There are no incurred expenses or cost of donating bone marrows or stem cells.

Nonprofits registries will take care of your lodging expenses, meals, and travel costs. And patient’s health insurance will cover the pre-donation exam costs and all costs involved in the donation itself—for donors who register with non-profits of course.

Myth 5: Bone marrow is time-consuming

All most donors are required to do is to make a donation within 1-3 months of receiving a request. Some non-profits will accommodate your schedule.

Donors are not required to stay in the hospital in peripheral stem cell donations which take roughly 4-6 hours. How time-consuming is that? And if bone marrow extraction is done, a donor could stay overnight. Still, this is not certain or mandatory (in a myriad of cases).

These are some of the myths or misconceptions about the donation of bone marrow.

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5 Must-Read Organ Donation Books in 2018 Wed, 10 Jan 2018 05:19:51 +0000 When an organ is affected by a disease, or you get into an accident that affects your organs, treatments don’t always work. For those who are suffering from kidney failure, dialysis doesn’t necessarily work.

However, when all treatment fails, organ transplantation is usually the next best alternative. Sadly the supply of organ donation doesn’t match the need. In this post, we’ll be examining a couple of books that take a look at the subject of organ donation.

1. The Organ Donor Experience: Good Samaritans and the Meaning of Altruism

This book explores the stories of more than 20 good Samaritans that have donated a bit of their liver, parts of their lungs, a kidney, to complete strangers. It explores the motivations behind such actions.

Most books on organ donation tend to direct their view on the needs of recipients and the shortage of organs. The organ donor experience, however, brings you a compelling and unique perspective from the viewpoint of the donor.

The organ donor experience not only brings to light the facet of organ donation that is rarely talked about, but it also does a good job celebrating these good Samaritans.

2. Twice Dead: Organ Transplants and the Reinvention of Death

In this book, Margaret Lock takes a look at the world of organ transplant and compares the industry in Japan and North America (as well as bits of Europe).

The overall theme of the book isn’t to look at the positives or the negatives of organ transplant, but rather to explore how our view of death has changed so that the technology of organ transplant could evolve and improve.

Apart from the analysis of the popular representation and professional literature on the subject, Lock also borrows from extensive interviews conducted with transplant surgeons, donor families, physicians, political activists opposed to the recognition of brain death, members of the public in both North America and Japan.

3. The Global Organ Shortage: Economic Causes, Human Consequences, Policy Responses

The Global Organ Shortage was put together by three economists. If you consider the fact that one of them, David Kaserman, has always been outspoken about providing incentives for donation, it is no surprise that the book concludes the way it does (favoring incentives). The nine-chapter book has excellent flow with each chapter building on the momentum of the one before it.

In the book, David Kaserman, Rigmar Osterkamp, and T. Randolph Beard surveyed and evaluated nearly the entire existing literature on organ shortage and the possible solution. They concluded their research by saying the best way to increase supply is to compensate organ donors including the cadaveric and the living.

The Global Organ Shortage is a brilliant guide to the literature of organ donation, which is why it is the number one literary source for anyone who wants to understand the cause, the effects, and the solution to the global organ transplant shortage.

4. Matching Organs with Donors: Legality and Kinship in Transplants (Contemporary Ethnography)

Matching Organs with Donors is a sensitive ethnography by Marie-Andrée Jacob that divulges the mindsets and methods of donors, patients, administrators, gray-sector workers, doctors and sellers in Israel’s kidney transplant bureaus for the living. The book tells how viable matches are pinpointed between recipient and donors using terminologies “borrowed” from definitions of kinship.

5. The Ethics of Organ Transplantation

This book deals with both living organ transplantation (such as the transplantation of non-vital organs like a kidney) from a healthy donor and the transplantation of vital organs from the deceased. While it is clear that both cases are examples of transplantation, it is necessary to differentiate between both cases from the beginning as each situation carries its ethical problems and questions.

A good portion of the book deals with the underlying issues surrounding the transplantation of vital organs. It also explores the somewhat vague borderline that crosses living and dead organ transplantation.

The Ethics of Organ Transplantation provides a detailed as well as a multi-perspective view on the status quo of organ donorship and transplantation.

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Questions and Answers About Skin Donation Thu, 28 Dec 2017 01:49:34 +0000 Do you know that you can give burn victims better quality of life even after you have kicked the bucket? The way you can help burn victims is by donating your skin when you are alive and even after you are dead. How can you do this? What is skin donation about? Why is it important? Can you donate skin while alive? Are there any contradictions?

This article discusses everything you need to know about skin donation. It answers several questions about the topic.

What is Skin Donation?

Skin donation is the donation of skin (from healthy or dead people) to assist others with skin problems. Although it has been practiced for a while now, skin donation isn’t a very popular concept which is wrong. Skin donation is meant to provide assistance to burns victims by helping to improve their quality of life.

The procedure can also help individuals who have suffered severe skin injuries apart from burns. Skin Donation is relatively a newer concept when compared to other forms of organ donation. However, there are many reasons why this procedure is the ideal choice than other previous types of organ donation.

Firstly, skin donation is something that anyone can do even after they have died, which can ultimately save the lives of many people around the world and give them a better quality of life.

Even though organ donation can only be achieved after the donor has been declared brain dead, skin donation is better because skin can be donated even after cardiac death. Cardiac death occurs when the heart has stopped functioning or pumping blood.

While brain death, on the other hand, is when the brain loses its function or dies but the donor or deceased individual keeps breathing on life support (with the aid of a ventilator), and the organs including the heart, lungs, kidneys, and liver are kept alive artificially and extracted as donor organs.

Donating your organs can only happen in a hospital under unique conditions. The deceased can donate their organs in the event that they are brain dead. While a deceased individual can donate their skin even after they suffer cardiac death. So you can see why skin donation is a unique procedure and far easier to achieve.

Who Will Need a Skin Donation?

Donated skin is primarily used to treat burn victims or people with serious skin injuries. A burn wound is arguably one of the most devastating wounds. It can change the life of the survivors physically, socially, psychologically, and economically.

Skin donation is used for early burn wound closure which is critical to the survival of patients who have suffered large burn wounds. When a burn wound is infected (often leading to systemic sepsis), it leads to the death of the patient.

In fact, burn wound infection or sepsis is primarily the major cause of death in patients with burn injuries.

In case of burns, the skin (which is the main protective barrier for the body) is destroyed. When this happens, the body is exposed to pathogens. If the burnt part of the skin is not covered immediately with some skin substitutes, the patient will be prone to fluid loss, infection, and ultimately death.

How Does Donated Skin Help a Burns Patient?

Here are a few ways that this can happen:

  • Donated skin controls loss of fluid, heat and protein from the body.
  • It helps to prevent the entry of infectious agents.
  • It saves the life of the patient.
  • It relieves pain.

Why is Skin Donation Important?

The skin is the single largest human organ. It is basically a shield that protects the body from heat and cold. It can also protect your body from environmental impacts like chemicals, UV-radiation, and pathogens.

Normally, the skin is designed to mend itself from wear and tear. However, when it gets damaged or badly burned, it will be unable to repair itself. For patients with life-threatening burn injuries, one way that healing can be promoted healing is by covering up the wound with allografts, which is known as skin from a donor.

Skin donation is important because it can save the lives of thousands of people. It can offer these individuals a better quality of life after they have suffered a catastrophic event (a burn wound).

How Can You Donate Skin?

Most people fail to realize that they can donate skin in the same way as corneas, organs, and tissues when they kick the bucket. The major cities around the world have skin banks, a place where the donated skin is properly preserved and stored.

The skin is made available to burn victims whenever necessary. Before knowing how the procedure is done, below three points to consider:

  • Donated skin can be frozen and stored for approximately five years.
  • Skin can only be harvested from the back, legs, and thighs. It does not disfigure the body of the donor in any way (since only a thin layer of skin is harvested from the legs, thighs, and back).
  • You can donate skin within 6 hours of cardiac death.

Who Can Be a Skin Donor?

Yes, any individual can be a skin donor no matter their sex or blood group. In fact, the minimum age to be qualified to donate skin should be 18 years of age. However, there isn’t any upper age limit.

People who have HIV (or Aids) & Hepatitis B or Hepatitis C, and STD’S, or generalized infections & Septicemia of (including Pneumonia, and T.B,), any skin infection, evidence of skin cancer, and other kinds of malignancy cannot donate skin.

Before the skin is harvested, a blood sample is taken from the deceased or donor and tested for HIV, Hepatitis and viral markers at the skin bank.

Facts About Skin Donation

Below are a few more facts about skin donation that you may not know:

  • There is no need to worry about bleeding or body disfigurement when you decide to donate skin to the skin bank.
  • There is no need for a matching requirement for skin grafting.
  • The skin donation processing charges for receiving cadaveric skin is relatively low when compared to the commercially available synthetic substitute skin options.
  • You do not have to pay any funds to the donation team if you decide to give part of your skin (it is essential to note that buying and selling of organs are considered illegal around the world).
  • When it comes to skin donation, there is no need for blood, skin color or age to be matched before the procedure can be carried out. Hence, any individual’s skin can easily be transplanted to a patient with skin issues.
  • You will need to produce a death certificate as well as its photocopy before you can donate skin (these documents will be carefully evaluated by the team of medical professionals before the procedure gets on the way).
  • There isn’t any bleeding from the part where the skin is usually harvested from. There won’t even be any disfigurement on the body after the procedure.
  • After the procedure, the team of doctors will bandage the parts where the skin was taken away in a proper way.


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Lung Donation and Transplant Thu, 07 Sep 2017 01:56:31 +0000 Lung donation and transplantation is a surgical procedure where a patient’s dead lungs are replaced partially or totally by lungs provided by an organ donor. It is the last resort treatment for patients who have end-stage lung disease and have exhausted all other treatment options without any improvement.

Donor’s lungs are usually retrieved from either a living or deceased individual. It is important to indicate that a living lung donor can donate only a single lung lobe. Apart from that, some lung diseases can leave a recipient in need of just one lung.

While in other lung diseases (like cystic fibrosis), a recipient will inevitably receive two lungs. Although as is the case with organ transplants, lung transplantation carries certain associated risks. However, they can extend the life expectancy of the patient and enhance their quality of life (particularly in recipients who have an end-stage pulmonary disease). This is a comprehensive highlight on lung donation and transplant.

Qualifying Conditions For Lung Transplantation

There are a variety of health conditions that can make a lung transplant necessary. As at the year 2005, the most common causes for lung transplantation include:

  • Idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis.
  • Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease including emphysema.
  • Cystic fibrosis.
  • Alpha 1-antitrypsin deficiency.
  • Idiopathic pulmonary hypertension.
  • Replacing diseased transplanted lungs.
  • Other causes like bronchiectasis and sarcoidosis.

Conditions That Disqualify Lung Transplantation

Note that, no matter how severe a patient’s respiratory condition may be, there are some pre-existing health issues that may make them poor candidates for lung transplantation. Some of these problems include:

  • Concurrent chronic illness (such as congestive heart failure, liver disease, and kidney disease).
  • Current infections such as HIV and hepatitis (although more people with Hepatitis C are being transplanted and also used as donors if recipients are Hepatitis C positive. Select HIV-infected people have undergone lung transplantation).
  • Current or recent cancer sufferers.
  • People who abuse alcohol, use tobacco, and/or illegal drugs.
  • Age.
  • People with psychiatric issues.
  • Individuals who have a history of not complying with medical instructions.

Requirements for Potential Lung Donors

There are a number of requirements that potential lung donors must meet before donating their organ due to the special needs of a potential recipient. In living donors, this is also the consideration of how lung transplantation surgery will affect a donor. These requirements include:

  • Donors must be healthy.
  • The size of the organ must match (donated lung/lungs must be big enough to oxygenate the patient adequately, and small enough to fit into the chest cavity of the recipient).
  • Age.
  • Blood type.

Requirements for Potential Lung Transplantation Recipients

While an organ transplantation center has the right to set its criteria for lung transplant candidates, there are several requirements that must generally be agreed upon. They include:

  • People with end-stage lung disease.
  • Patients who have exhausted every available therapy.
  • Recipients with no chronic medical conditions including heart, kidney, and liver disease (although some patients can be qualified if their condition can be improved to the point that they are stable enough and can survive the surgery.
  • Persons who don’t have any current infections or cancer (although exceptions have been made on a case by case basis for patients with lung or other cancers. In patients with cystic fibrosis transplantation centers can use their discretion).
  • Potential recipients should not have HIV or hepatitis (although there have been exceptions for recipients who have the same kind of hepatitis as the donor and HIV patients with low HIV viral load).
  • Potential recipients should not abuse alcohol, engage in smoking, or use illicit drugs (there have been exceptions for individuals who have successfully ceased these habits)
  • Patients must be within an acceptable weight (undernourishment or obesity can result in an increased mortality).
  • Age.
  • Recipients must have an acceptable psychological profile.
  • Have a social support system.
  • Should be financially able to cover the expenses for the procedure (where medical bills are paid by the patient).
  • Should be able to comply with the post-transplantation regimen (since this is a major surgery, following the operation, the patient must willingly adhere to a regimen of medications for the rest of their lives and continue medical care).

What Are the Risks Involved in Lung Donation and Transplantation?

As is the case with other surgical procedures, there is a risk of bleeding and/or infection. The transplanted lung may fail to heal or function properly. Because a large part of the recipient’s body was exposed to outside air, sepsis can set in, so antibiotics must be given to prevent that from happening. Other complications include gastrointestinal inflammation as well as ulceration of the esophagus and stomach and post-transplant lymphoproliferative disorder (lymphoma caused by immune suppressants).

Transplant rejection is a key concern immediately after surgery and throughout the patient’s lifetime. This is because transplanted lung(s) come from another individual, and the recipient’s immune system can detect it as an invader thus attempting to neutralize it. Tissue rejection is a serious issue and must be treated quickly.

Symptoms of Organ Rejection

  • Fever.
  • Flu-like symptoms (like chills, dizziness, nausea, night sweats and a general feeling of illness).
  • Difficulty breathing.
  • Poor pulmonary test results.
  • Increased tenderness or chest pain.
  • Decrease or increase in body weight of over two kilograms within 24 hours.

Prevention of Organ Rejection Following Lung Transplantation

To prevent organ rejection and damage to newly implanted lung(s), patients must judiciously follow a regimen of immunosuppressive medications. Patients will have to take combination medicines to combat any risks of tissue rejection. This is inevitably a lifelong commitment and has to be adhered to strictly. The immunosuppressive regimen is initiated just before or following the surgery. The regimen usually includes azathioprine, ciclosporin, and corticosteroids. As episodes of rejection can reoccur throughout the patient’s lifetime, the exact dosages and choices of immunosuppressants can be modified as time passes. Sometimes tacrolimus is prescribed instead of mycophenolate and ciclosporin.

These immunosuppressants also introduce some risks to the recipient. By lowering the body’s immunity, these medicines increase the patient’s chances of contracting an infection. Antibiotics can be prescribed to treat or prevent infections. Infection can increase the risk of tissue rejection, and an interaction might prevail between both risks. Some medications may have nephrotoxic or other harmful side-effects. Others may be prescribed to help alleviate these severe side effects.

There is the risk that the patient may have allergic reactions to the medications, which is why it is imperative for close follow-up care to balance the benefits that these drugs present versus their potential risks. Repeated bouts of tissue rejection symptoms also known as chronic rejection, beyond the first year following the surgery, occurs in 50% of patients according to statistical data from the United States. Chronic rejection can present itself as atherosclerosis or bronchiolitis obliterans.

Types of Lung Transplant:


Lobe transplantation is a surgery where part of the lung of the living or deceased donor is removed and used as a replacement in the recipient’s diseased lung. When the donor is a living one, this procedure needs the donation of lobes taken from two different individuals, replacing a lung on either side of the patient.


Most patients can be treated by the transplantation of one healthy lung. The lung donated typically comes from a brain-dead donor.


Some patients may require both of their lungs to be replaced. A condition that may trigger this is cystic fibrosis (because of the bacterial colonization found in the lungs of such patients).


Some respiratory patients might also have other severe cardiac diseases which would also trigger a heart transplant. Such patients can undergo a surgery where both their lungs and heart are replaced.


In single-lung transplantation, the lung that has the worst pulmonary function is replaced. If both the patient’s lungs work equally, the right lung is favored for removal as this avoids having to maneuver around the heart during the procedure (as would be required if it were the left lung).


Double-lung donation and transplantation, also called bilateral transplant, can be carried out either sequentially, simultaneously or en bloc. Sequential is the more common practice than en bloc. This feels like undergoing two separate single-lung transplants at once.

A Description of How the Procedure is Done

While the surgical details can depend on the kind of transplant, there is a host of steps common to each procedure. Before operating on a recipient, the surgeon will inspect the donor lungs for any signs of disease or damage. If the lung(s) is approved, the recipient is placed on an IV line and other monitoring equipment, including a pulse oximetry. The recipient will also be given a general anesthesia, and be aided by a machine for breathing. It takes at least an hour to prepare the patient for the procedure. A single lung surgery can take at least four to eight hours. A double lung transplant can take up six to twelve hours. A recipient with a history of prior chest operation may complicate the surgery and require additional time.

Post-Operative Care After Lung Transplantation

Immediately after the lung transplantation surgery, the recipient is placed under intensive care for monitoring. This can last for a few days normally. The patient is put on a ventilator to help their breathing. The nutritional needs of the patient are met using total parenteral nutrition. However, on some occasions, a nasogastric tube is seen as sufficient enough for a feeding. Chest tubes can be put to allow excess fluid to be removed from the lungs. Since the patient is going to be confined to a bed, a catheter is used to remove urine. IV lines are affixed to the arm and neck to monitor the patient and give them medication.

After a few days (in the absence of complications), the recipient is transferred to a standard patient ward for a full recovery. The average time frame regarding hospital stay following lung transplantation is one to three weeks (bar the absence of complications). If there are complications, the patient may require an extended period to recover. After this stage, the patient is required to attend the rehabilitation gym for a three month period to regain their fitness. Lightweights, treadmill, stretches, and exercise bike, etc. are all part of the rehabilitation program.

There might be a range of side effects after a surgery as complicated as this. The reason for this is because some nerve connections to the patient’s lungs are cut in the procedure, recipients cannot feel any urge to cough or know when their lungs are becoming congested. Recipients must make conscious effort to take deep breaths and/or a cough so as to clear any secretions from their newly implanted lungs. Their heart rate will respond less quickly to exertion because of the cutting of their vagus nerve (that normally helps to regulate it). Finally, they may notice changes in their voice because of potential damage to their vocal cords coordinating nerves.

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Why You Should Donate Your Brain to Science Fri, 01 Sep 2017 02:50:53 +0000 Many people recognize the importance of donated tissue in the medical field. Organ donation has helped save countless lives, giving people with major health issues a second chance at life by replacing failing organs with healthy ones.

However, tissue donation is not just necessary for the medical field, but to the field of research as well. And though researchers may not save lives in the same sense that medical doctors do, their work is live-saving nonetheless. Through research, a disease can be better understood, treatments improved, and, sometimes, even cured completely.

One option that is frequently overlooked when it comes to tissue donation is the donation of one’s brain.

Brain donations are essential to finding cures for diseases such as Alzheimer’s and depression, but unfortunately, researchers have been struggling to find the brain tissue they need to perform such work. However, with tissue donation becoming more widely known and accepted, there is hope that brain donation will increase and thus improve scientist’s abilities to research this particular organ.

Why Brain Donation?

Relatively few people are aware of the fact that they can choose to donate their brain after death. And those that are can sometimes struggle with the thought of donating their brain, even if it is no longer needed once one passes on.

However, there are compelling reasons as to why one should donate their brain and what this kind of donation can mean for the advancement of research.

Though your brain may not be able to aid another person by replacing damaged or unhealthy tissue, it can help by advancing research in many areas. Brain tissue is vital in helping to answer questions regarding diseases of the brain such as Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, depression, or autism.

For many diseases, there is a genetic component that comes into play. By using brain tissue to further investigate, researchers can advance their knowledge of these diseases and who might be susceptible to them.

It can help them develop better methods of testing for and treating such diseases, giving not just those people currently affected by such disorders hope, but future generations as well. Additionally, the study of brain tissue collected after death can aid scientists in researching what happens to the brain after a traumatic brain injury.

While there are many methods scientists have for researching the brain, none are quite as effective as actually being able to look at a physical brain and studying the physical anomalies and differences between healthy and unhealthy brains.

Tests such as MRI’s and CT scans can be very beneficial to researchers, but unfortunately, this technology is limited and takes only a broad look at the brain in general.

These types of technologies are not able to see the brain in detail, on a molecular level. In that same respect, while studies on other animals can be beneficial and help in further understanding the workings of the brain, it does not help us with the many disorders and illnesses that affect the human brain.

By having brain tissue on which to experiment and study, researchers can discover differences and perhaps find treatments that they otherwise would not be able to.

All of this brings hope and an incredible amount of potential to people who currently must live with illnesses they can never be free of. The simple act of donating your brain after death has the potential to affect hundreds of thousands of lives. Even after death, your life could mean a great deal to so many other people.

What is Required for Brain Donation

The decision to donate your brain is an incredibly meaningful one. However, because it is not as widely known that your brain can be donated, it does take some planning to ensure that this will happen.

Fortunately, there are many great institutes that can help you plan ahead. With a simple search, an institute local to you can often be found.

There are several things that need to happen in order for a brain donation to be successful. It is vital to speak with loved ones and express your wishes in regards to the donation of your brain. With the help of a donation center, it can be easily enough accomplished, but it will require some help from loved ones.

As brain tissue begins to deteriorate rapidly after death, it is vital that the tissue be refrigerated as soon as possible after the donor has passed on.

Though some institutions have more specific time frames and protocols, it is most commonly recommended the body be refrigerated within six hours of death to prevent the brain from deteriorating too much to be of use for research.

Though this does depend on quite a bit of the manner of death, this is the best rule of thumb to adhere to. If the brain tissue has been left uncooled for an extended length of time, unfortunately, most facilities will not be able to use that donated brain.

The institute or brain bank you have chosen to work with will need to notified as soon as possible after your death in order for the donation to successfully occur. This is where your loved ones’ assistance is vital.

Regrettably, the task of notifying the Institute and/or the coroner’s’ office of your wishes will fall upon them. In most cases, the institute or brain bank will work directly with the coroner’s office or funeral home to arrange transport of the brain tissue to their facility. Ideally, the brain should reach the appropriate destination within 24 hours of death.

If you have concerns about whether your brain can be used in research, most often the answer is yes, it can. As long as the brain is cooled appropriately and received in a timely manner, your brain can almost always be used for research purposes regardless of your health before your death.

Researchers need both healthy brain tissue and the tissue of those with disorders that affect the brain. Healthy brain tissue is used to compare to unhealthy brain tissue so that they might better determine what effects individual diseases have on the brain.

What is a Brain Bank?

Speaking of brain banks, just what is it that they are and do? Shortly put, a brain bank is a place which collects brain tissue in order to provide a variety of tissue types to whoever might need it. By collecting tissue in one place, they are able to provide a wider selection of brain tissue that can then be used in various types of research.

This benefits researchers greatly as they can request a specific type of tissue from a bank in order to further their research more easily and accurately.

This means researchers can have access to a wider variety of tissue so that they can focus on furthering research rather than attempting to locate the tissue they might need through other avenues.

When you choose to donate your brain, you are free to choose where you would like it to go. Many institutes and universities do accept donations of brain tissue from individual donors. However, if you choose to donate directly to a researching institute, they may have separate protocols that you must follow in order to donate.

It is important that you discuss this with the Institute prior to making the arrangements to ensure a successful donation.

If you do not have a specific place in mind, however, a brain bank is an excellent option for donation. This allows your donation to reach a larger audience of researchers so that it might be put to best use.

Making That Meaningful Decision

Whether or not brain donation is for you is something only you can decide. Donation of the brain does take more thought and planning than the donation of other tissues might, but going that small extra distance can make a huge difference in so many lives.

If you are interested in learning more about what it means to be a brain donor, a great place to start this discussion is with a local clinic or hospital.

They will often have access to resources such as institutes and brain banks near you that would be able to help you. In the end, brain donation is a personal decision. It is also a decision that has the potential to change hundreds, if not thousands, of lives.

Whether or not brain donation is for you is something only you can decide. Donation of the brain does take more thought and planning than the donation of other tissues might, but going that small extra distance can make a huge difference in so many lives.

If you are interested in learning more about what it means to be a brain donor, a great place to start this discussion is with a local clinic or hospital. They will often have access to resources such as institutes and brain banks near you that would be able to help you.

In the end, brain donation is a personal decision. It is also a decision that has the potential to change hundreds, if not thousands, of lives.

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