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 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 eight 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 unbiased approach of receiving a transplant is being practiced all throughout the country.
Types of donors
There are two types of donors – living and deceased. 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 owners, 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?
If you go through the organ donation facts, you would be surprised to know that 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 of the donor there are some organs that can be donated while the donor is alive as well. The organs that can be donated while the done is alive include:
- One kidney
- Part of the pancreas
- Part of the liver
- Part of the intestine
- Small portion of hip bones
The human body can survive in a healthy way even if these organs are donated. The living donor would not be impacted if he donates one of his two kidneys or a small part of the liver. However, this noble gesture of the living donor would be able to save the life of so many people. As a matter of fact, kidney transplantation happens to be the most popular organ transplantation in the US and abroad.
The organs which can be donated by deceased donors include the following:
- Heart valves
- 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.
Some quick information related to organ donation
If there are still any doubts lingering in your mind, you may want to go through this quick list of useful information related to organ donation facts and procedures
- Organs can be donated by anyone who is aged between 18 to 60 years.
- If young people who are less than 18 years want to donate their organs, written consent from their parents or legal guardians would be required.
- Patients with HIV, cancer or patients with infections are not being considered legitimate for organ donation
- To become a living donor, one should not have diabetes, AIDS, kidney or heart diseases
- In the US, the success rate of organ transplantation surgeries is about 80-90%.
- Financial compensation for donated organs is illegal in almost all countries around the world, with the exception of Australia where organ donors can legally receive monetary compensations in exchange of the donated organs. Apart from this, Singapore has amended their laws and allowed monetary compensation legal only for kidney transplant cases.
- 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. Donation of organs is considered only when the patient expires even after relentless efforts of the doctors to save his life.
- The donation of organs does not cost anything to the family of the donor. All medical expenses that are related to the transplantation will be borne either by the family of the recipient or the insurance company of the recipient.
- Deceased donors can still have funerals in open casket
- Organ donors are needed for people from different ethnicities and races. If the transplantation happens between members of the same ethnic background, chances of a successful transplantation become higher.
- The easiest way to agreeing to donate organs is to fill out the organ donor card along with the driver’s license.
- You can also enroll for organ donation by registering with the donor registry of your state or with the United Network for Organ Sharing.
If you plan to become a living donor, you may want to know that organ donation requires a major surgery and has many associated risks like allergic reactions, infections, bleeding etc. The worst of all could be the damaging of nearby tissues and organs if the transplantation process is carried out by inexperienced hands. The pain and trouble that will have to endure will be nothing when compared to the joy of being able to save someone’s life. It is also important that if donating organs while you are alive, you need to ensure that the process would be carried out by reputed surgeons who have good experience in organ transplantations. Do not step back from asking as many questions regarding the surgery as you want to. Do not forget to understand that how the surgery can affect your future health. While it will not impact your health in an adverse way, there is certainly no harm in getting that checked and confirmed by the doctors and surgeons who would be involved in the process.
As already mentioned earlier, taking money for a donated organ is illegal in America and many other countries. You should be fully aware of the legal processes so that you do not fall prey to any unethical practice that gets carried out in some ill-reputed medical facilities. There are many people who run illegal rackets of buying and selling donated organs. In your endeavor to do good to the world, you would definitely not want your mortal remains to fall into the wrong hands and get used illegally.
Choosing to become an organ donor is something that will help you save the lives of so many people. It is certainly a divine gesture to be able to save lives of people by donating your organs when you would not need them any longer after your death. You would know that even after you are not there, although they would be in someone else’s body, your eyes will still continue to see the world, your heart would still pump and your lungs would still help some needy to breathe and carry on with his life. You would be no less than an angel to the people and their families who would get saved by your organ donation. Organ donation is indeed the gift of a lifetime that you can give to someone.