Donate Life month calls all to register as organ donors
Published 8:36 am Tuesday, April 12, 2016
More people are donating organs than ever before, but according to the Organ Procurement and Transplantation Network, an average of 22 people die each day while waiting for organ transplants.
On Monday, Sycamore Shoals Hospital (SSH) hosted the annual raising of the Donate Life flag to recognize the importance of organ and tissue donors during National Donate Life month.
According to the United Network for Organ Sharing (UNOS), a person’s name is added to the national transplant waiting list every ten minutes. It now includes 121,025 names.
At the flag raising ceremony, SSH Vice President and CEO Dwayne Taylor thanked donor families and hospital staff for their gifts of life to others.
“We had eight tissue and organ donors right here last year,” Taylor said. “Every one of you has touched lives and helped us to bring awareness to the public about the importance of becoming a donor.”
Jennifer Jenks, Donate Life’s hospital services coordinator, said one tissue donor can enhance 50 to 100 people’s lives.
Patrick Abdelmessih, a local tissue recipient, said he was in a car accident and had to have four bone grafts. The damages in his neck pressed on the nerves in his spinal cord and caused him to have weakness and a lack of feeling below his elbows.
He was able to receive his transplant one week after he received his treatment plan.
“If I couldn’t have gotten the transplant, I don’t think there would have been another option,“ said Abdelmessih. “I wouldn’t be able to button my shirt or pick up my little girl.”
Donor networks consider organ donations to be life-saving and tissue donations to be life-enhancing.
“They say that tissue is life-enhancing, but if you talk to a recipient, they’ll say it’s life-changing, and in some cases, life-saving,” said Abdelmessih.
For some, the decision to become a donor is confusing. They do not know if their religion allows it, or how their families would feel about it.
Taylor said he spoke with his pastor who said nothing in the Bible prohibits it.
“I have children, and I would never hesitate to have them receive organs if they needed them,” he said. That’s why he and his daughter are registered donors.
According to UNOS, all major religions approve of tissue and organ donation.
A common misconception, said SSH Nurse Brenda Whisenhunt, is that there are age or health limitations.
“You’re never too old or too young to be a donor,” said Jenks. “The time to register is now.”
According to UNOS, people of all ages can be registered donors, and donation is possible with many medical conditions.
Another SSH nurse, Carolyn Lawson, said she sees firsthand the tragedy a family faces when losing a loved one, and then having to make the decision whether to donate their tissue or organs. While families can make that decision for deceased relatives, she said it is best for individuals to make that decision and to register.
A national database along with strict standards ensures fair and ethical distribution of organs, according to UNOS.
Jenks said people can register to become organ donors when they apply for new drivers licenses or by going online to tds.dcids.org. On the drivers license, she said to make sure the red heart is on the front, because signatures on the back often disappear with time.
Healthy people can even donate a kidney or part of a liver, lung, intestine, blood or bone marrow.
Last year, according to Donate Life, organ transplants exceeded 30,000 in 2015, and that number continues to increase. Tennessee Donor Services data shows 4,000 people join the organ transplant list each month.
For more information on organ and tissue donation, visit donatelife.org.