Being an organ donor saves multiple lives
January 9, 2014
Organ donors on average save the lives of eight individuals and help heal 100 individuals through tissue donation.
Donor Alliance, the federally-designated and accredited nonprofit organ procurement and tissue bank organization serving Colorado and most of Wyoming, is seeking to bring truth to many of the myths surrounding organ and tissue donation.
In Colorado and Wyoming there are 2,360 people currently waiting for a life-saving organ transplant, according to the organization. And of those waiting, 70 percent are waiting for a kidney — the most needed organ — and 25 percent are waiting for a liver.
Colorado has one of the nation's highest-performing state donor registries with nearly 67 percent of driver's license and ID card applicants as organ and tissue donors.
"Coloradans have that generous giving spirit," said Andrea Smith, public relations and communications director for Donor Alliance. "I think it says a lot about our community that so many are willing to give from themselves to help others."
Recoverable organs include the heart, lungs, liver, kidneys, pancreas, and small bowel. Recoverable tissues include bone, tendons, and corneas as well as veins, heart valves, and skin.
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While organ and tissue donations can be used to help everyone from infants with heart problems to breast cancer patients who use tissue to rebuild breasts after a vasectomy, the myths surrounding organ and tissue donation keep some people from registering as organ donors, according to Smith.
On the list of myths is the thought that a person is too old or too sick to donate organs, or that they have a chronic illness that wouldn't make them eligible as an organ donor.
"You're never too old or too sick," Smith said. "Register and let the medical professionals make those decisions."
People with chronic diseases often don't realize that there are a number of people waiting for organs that have the same illness and can only accept organs from people with that illness. For example, diabetics who need an organ transplant can only accept organs from other diabetics.
Another common misconception is medical professionals won't try as hard to save a person's life if they are registered as an organ donor, which cannot be farther from the truth, according to Smith.
"The only priority of medical professionals is to save that person's life," she said. "Organ donation isn't even considered until someone is declared deceased."
One of the more popular myths surrounding organ donation is that it does not allow for an open casket funeral. The body of an organ donor is always treated with the upmost in respect, according to Smith, and an open casket funeral is still possible after donating organs.
Some people believe it is against their religious beliefs to donate organs after death, when in-fact most religions encourage their followers to donate organs as it can be seen as an act of charity and goodwill.
There are a number of other myths surrounding organ donation, which are all answered at Donor Alliance's websites at donatelifecolorado.org and donoralliance.org.
Donor designation can be made when renewing a driver's license, or at the Donor Alliance website. Donors may identify any organs they do not wish to donate.
Reid Tulley can be reached at 970-887-3334