Friday, June 08, 2007

Organ & Tissue Donation

The house feels oddly empty. I brought Doogie and Molly back to their dad's for the weekend, so it's just Mia, my brother Jake, and me. This morning I loaded the computer up with a bunch of great dance music, and we all boogied around the house straightening. There was lots of laughter and singing. The mood stayed through the trip to Oconto and dropping them off. I miss them already. When they are gone, it's as though part of my heart goes numb until they come back.

This is an article I wrote for the local papers about organ and tissue donation. I work at a hospital as the pastoral care coordinator. Part of my job is to organize luncheons for local pastors and hospital staff so they can talk about what's going on and make sure that the community's needs are being met. I've been getting speakers to talk about specific concerns, and late last year, we had a speaker talk about this issue, and it really opened up my eyes to the need of donation and the possibilities. My driver's license says that I'm a donor, and my family knows my wishes. I was very proud of Doogie when he brought home his temporary license and he had the little orange donor sticker on it. Is your card signed and have you talked to your family? This is too important to let slide.

Organ and tissue donation is one of the greatest gifts we can give upon our death, but few people donate, and thousands die every year while on the waiting list. Federal law requires that hospitals speak to all families about donation after the death of a loved one. Upon a patient’s death, the hospital informs UW-OPO (organ procurement organization) coordinators. The UW-OPO helps evaluate potential donors so that families are made aware of the opportunity to donate eyes, tissues or organs if the deceased meets certain criteria. After looking for signs of the deceased’s wishes about donation, nursing staff who have received training and are certified requestors will approach the family in a warm, supportive manner. If there is a donor card or some other form of directive for donation, the next of kin still needs to approve the donation. If there is no written documentation, the decision is left entirely up to the next of kin, and family members can change their mind and revoke their permission for donation at any time.
Community Memorial Hospital does not perform organ transplants, but they do perform tissue donation. Tissue differs from organs in that it includes bone, skin, heart valves, connective tissue and veins used in surgeries, medical research, and education. Many more people are eligible tissue donors than they are organ donors. More than 1 million tissue transplants are performed each year in the United States. A single tissue donor can save or enhance the lives of more than 50 people. It is estimated that one in 20 Americans will need some kind of tissue transplant. Connective tissues help repair defects, eliminate or reduce pain, and promote faster healing. Heart valves replace defective valves and improve heart function. Skin transplants can save lives in severe burn cases and can restore functional and cosmetic problems for many patients. Donated veins can help restore blood circulation. Donated bone can save an injured patient from amputation, and may aid in spinal, musculoskeletal, and fracture repair.
Despite the increasing potential for tissue use in both life saving and life enhancing surgeries, just 8 percent of the need is being met. The high success rates of transplantation make the shortage of organs and tissues all the more tragic. Transplant survival rates keep increasing. The survival rates for transplants are about 95% for kidney recipients, 85% for liver and heart recipients, and 75% for lung recipients.

There are a lot of myths and misconceptions that prevent people from donating.

Myth: If I’m in an accident and the hospital knows that I want to be a donor, the doctors will not try to save me.
Fact: Organ recovery takes place only after all efforts to save your life have been exhausted and death has been legally declared. The medical team treating you is completely separate from the transplant team

Myth: I am too old/sick to be a donor
Fact: Physical condition, not age, matters the most. Physicians will determine your suitability at the time of death. Your medical background will be reviewed to determine whether you can be a donor. With recent advances in transplantation, many more people than ever before can be donors. And for donors found unsuitable for transplant, donation is still possible for research purposes. Non-transplantable donated tissue may be used to study cures and treatments for a variety of diseases and conditions.

Myth: I won’t be able to have an open casket at the funeral, because I will be disfigured.
Fact: Organ and tissue donation is a very careful surgical procedure. Great care is taken so that an open-casket service is still possible with any type of donation. Funeral arrangements can continue as scheduled.

Myth: Celebrities get priority treatment for organ transplants.
Fact: Celebrity transplants tend to get more publicity, so it may seem to be common. In fact, most people can only name four or five celebrity transplant recipients, yet 20,000 people like you and me receive the gift of life each year. Because organ donor programs don’t know the financial status of the recipients on the list, having lots of money does not affect who will receive organs for transplant.

91,000 Americans are on a waiting list for transplants, and another person is added to the list every 16 minutes. In the US, 17 people die daily while waiting for a transplant. 85% of the population supports organ donation, including most organized religions.

Assembly of God – Support with the decision left to the individual.

Baptists - Believe donation is an act of charity and decisions about donation and transplantation are up to the individual.

Buddhists – Place high value on compassionate acts and believe donation is an individual choice that should be shared with loved ones.

Catholics – View donation as an act of charity, fraternal love, and self-sacrifice. Transplants are ethically and morally acceptable to the Vatican.

Church of Christ Scientists – Do not have an official position on donation or transplantation, relying normally on spiritual means for healing. The decision on donation is left up to the individual.

Episcopalians – Recognize organ and tissue donation benefits and support donation as part of their ministry to others in the name of Christ.

Hindus – Not prohibited by religious law from donation, but regard it as an individual decision.

Islam – Strongly believes in the principle of saving lives, which includes donation and transplantation.

Jehovah’s Witnesses – Do not encourage donation, but believe the decision to donate should be left to the individual.

Judaism – All four branches (Orthodox, Conservative, Reform and Reconstructionist) support and encourage donation.

Lutherans – Believe donation contributes to humanity’s well-being and is an expression of sacrificial love for neighbors in need.

Mormons – Do not oppose donation, believing the decision is an individual one, made in conjunction with family, medical personnel and prayer.

Pentecostals – Believe the decision to donate should be left to the individual.

Presbyterians – Encourage and endorse donation, respecting the individual’s right to make decisions about his or her body.

Seventh-Day Adventists – Strongly encourage donation and transplantation.

Shinto – Against donation because of the belief that it would affect the relationship between the person who has died and family members.

United Church of Christ – Extremely supportive of donation and transplantation.

United Methodists – Recognize the life-giving benefits of donation and encourage all members to sign donor cards.

Despite the fact that 9 out of 10 support it, only 34% of Americans know the proper steps to committing to donation. Becoming an organ or tissue donor gives someone else the gift of life. Sign and date the back of your driver’s license and it’s vital that you tell your family you want to be a donor. To be designated as a donor on your driving record, send an email with your full name, driver’s license number, current address, and a statement such as “I would like my record to reflect that I would like to be an organ and tissue donor” to


We're planning on staying close to home this weekend. Jess wants to clean out the vehicles, vacuum and Armorall them. We need to clean up the yard from the roofers, who are thankfully done. Hopefully over the course of the weekend I can figure out the new dosage of my medicine. I had a dr's appointment on Wednesday, and he upped my Lyrica to one in the morning and two at bedtime. So Wednesday night I took my normal two Tylenol PM, two pain pills, plus the two Lyrica. I slept for twelve hours! Thank goodness the kids were here to take care of Mia. Last night I adjusted things a bit and slept for nine hours. That's still a little too long, but I woke up feeling pretty good this morning. Have a wonderful weekend!