Give the Gift of Life: Be An Organ Donor by Shannon Lynch
Choosing to be an organ donor may be one of the most selfless choices you can make in your life. It doesn’t cost anything, it takes only minutes to register as a donor, and your decision to donate can save multiple lives. Each organ donor can impact as many as eight lives: kidneys (2), pancreas, liver, lungs (2), heart, and intestines. Hands and faces have been recently added, increasing the impact a donor can make. And more than 75 lives may be enhanced from the donation of a donor’s eyes and tissue: cornea, skin, heart valves, bone, blood vessels, and connective tissue.
According to the Health Resources & Services Administration (HRSA), an agency of the US Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), thousands of people are waiting for lifesaving or life-enhancing transplants. As of February 2021, that number is over 107,000, and another person is added to the waiting list every 9 minutes. Unfortunately, the number of organs available falls far short of the number of people waiting for a transplant.
In New Hampshire and most other states, you can sign up to be an organ and tissue donor when you update or renew your driver’s license or non-driver identification. You can also register online at Donate Life New England at www.donatelifenewengland.org. The country is divided into 11 geographic regions, and except for some kidney and liver transplants, donations usually benefit someone who lives in the donor’s area. Seventy-five percent of organs go to local people. The New Hampshire Department of Motor Vehicles works with the New England Organ Bank, a federally designated organ procurement organization, which coordinates organ and tissue donations in New Hampshire, Maine, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Connecticut, the eastern counties of Vermont, and Bermuda.
Some information to consider as an organ donor:
- All adults are eligible to donate, including the elderly or those who have a health condition. Even if a person has only one organ that can be donated, that is one life saved.
- It’s important to tell your family that you have registered as an organ donor, so they won’t be surprised when the time comes and will be comfortable carrying out your wishes.
- When you sign up as a donor through your state’s registry, you have legally authorized your donation and your consent cannot be overruled.
- If you change your mind about being an organ donor, you can change your donor status at any time on your state’s registry site.
- Signing up as a registered donor does not affect the medical care you receive in the hospital. The doctors treating you are separate from the transplant team and will do everything they can to save your life.
- The organ transplant team uses a set of general criteria in determining a match between donor and recipient: how well the recipient matches the donor’s blood and tissue type; how long the person has been on the waiting list and their overall medical condition; and how close the person receiving the transplant lives to the donor.
- Donating your organs doesn’t disfigure your body and allows for an open casket funeral.
- There is absolutely no cost to you, your family or your estate to donate your organs. You pay only for your medical care and funeral costs. Transplant costs are paid by the recipient, usually through their insurance, including Medicare or Medicaid.
Remember, it doesn’t cost anything and takes only a minute or two to register to be an organ donor. In New Hampshire, register as an organ donor online (www.dmv.org/nh-new-hampshire/) or in person at any of the offices of the NH Department of Motor Vehicles or online at the Donate Life New England Registry website at www.donatelifenewengland.org.
Your generosity in donating your organs and tissue has the potential to save many lives and enhance and improve the quality of life for many more. Donate Life New England’s slogan says it all: You Have the Power to Donate Life.
Shannon Lynch is the Executive Director of Summit by Morrison, a senior living community offering independent living, assisted living, memory care and respite care.
The Morrison Communities is a non-profit 501©(3) charitable community that has been providing quality healthcare to residents of New Hampshire’s North Country since 1903. For more information, go to www.themorrisoncommunities.org