By Samuel W. Ascioti, DC
Earlier in March, I had the opportunity to listen to New York State Assemblyman Phil Palmesano (R-132nd District) give a presentation about a special project that was near and dear to his heart: April is National Donate Life Month, a nationwide push to raise awareness for the need of organ and tissue donations and transplants.
Assemblyman Palmesano has been personally leading the effort in the state of New York to improve the state’s organ donation system and has already enacted legislation designed to do just that. I was able to have a few words with Phil, and I told him about our Health Topic of the Month and my interest in helping spread awareness for this issue, and he was enthusiastic about the idea. And so, without further delay, this month’s Health Topic is all about organ donation!
According to Donate Life America, 115,000 men, women and children await life-saving organ transplants. This number continues to grow at a very fast rate, too: every 10 minutes, another person is added to the national transplant waiting list. Unfortunately, not everyone is lucky enough to receive a transplant, and for some, time simply runs out. Every year, around 8,000 deaths occur in the U.S. because organs are not donated in time, equating to about 22 deaths per day from this delay. Some patients wait for years or decades before receiving a transplant, and others never do.
So which organs are in the highest demand? 82% of patients waiting for an organ transplant need a kidney. Human beings have two kidneys each, and, fortunately, we can survive as long as one kidney is functioning properly. Livers are also in high demand and can be readily supplied without fear of causing too much lasting damage to the donor, as up to a third of a person’s liver can be donated, and it will eventually grow back.
Despite the ever-increasing need for organ donors, there is good news: since 1988, the number of donors has steadily increased. In 2016 alone, 33,600 transplants helped bring new life to patients and their families.
Fun fact : ALL major religions support organ donation as a final act of compassion and generosity.
Options for Donating
There are a few different options for donating organs. The option we’re most familiar with are deceased donations, or the process of giving an organ, eye, or other tissue at the time of the donor’s death. Many individuals volunteer for deceased donations when they apply for their driver’s license or sign paperwork before undergoing medical procedures, just in case something were to happen.
Then there are living donations, where the organ or tissue is removed from a healthy, living human, providing the top-quality organ much sooner than other forms of donation. In some cases, the organ can be received in less than a year.
Finally, there’s a type of donation called a vascularized composite allograft (VCA) which involves the transplantation of multiple components that could include bone, muscle, blood vessels, skin, connective tissues, and nerves. VCAs are most commonly used for hand and face transplants.
Where Can I Learn More?
If you’re interested in learning more about organ/tissue donation or would like to sign up to be a donor, you can visit https://www.donatelife.net/ndlm/.
All information for this article was obtained from https://www.donatelife.net/ and from Google Images.