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Be a Hero

by Michael Ross and Diem Pham Founding Partners, ROAMcare


Although the annual April 15 tax deadline has been delayed this year, for 107,000 Americans currently waiting for a transplant, every day becomes a deadline. A new member is added to this waiting group every 9 minutes and for 17 people, the final deadline comes today as they lose their fight waiting for an undelivered organ.


Seventeen people died yesterday waiting for a transplant but how many of them were featured in an evening news cast? Seventeen people died last Wednesday but how many protests were held decrying the unnecessary loss of their lives? Seventeen people will die tomorrow and every day this month but how many times will that be retweeted, shared, or forwarded throughout the social networks? Seventeen people will die today and how often will you say their names?


The numbers won’t improve on their own. Each day 54 more people are added to the waiting lists than are transplanted. Last year, even though 39,000 transplants were performed and every day 106 people were given a new chance at life, 160 people were added each day for their chance.


Every organ donor has the potential to save 8 lives with the gifts of one heart, two lungs, a liver, a pancreas, two kidneys, and the intestines. You can add to that two cornea, a lot of skin and a handful of other non-categorized tissues like the abdominal wall. That’s from a deceased donor. Want to be a hero and still be around to feel good about it after the transplant? Living donations aren’t restricted to kidneys although they are the most common living donor organs transplanted. In addition to giving a kidney for transplant, living donors can also give a portion of the liver, pancreas and intestines, and can offer a lung.


In its most recent complete report covering this March, the Organ Procurement and Transportation Network of the U. S. Department of Health and Human Services reported 9,878 transplant surgeries of all types were performed from 4,740 donations. How can you perform more surgeries than you had donations? From living donors you can’t, but from deceased donors you can transplant multiple organs. In March there were 1,463 living donors contributing to 1,478 transplants. (Multiple living organ donations are rare but possible with kidney/pancreas transplants.)


There would seem to be a lot of surgery going on, but it is still not enough to meet the need. For every two people who receive transplants, three people are added to the waiting lists. And most unfortunately there are 17 people who only get off the list because all else has failed.


April is Donate Life Month. Don't let it slip by unnoticed. Take action. Decide to be an organ donor and follow through with registration. It's easy. Just check the box on the form when you renew your driver’s license. Your decision to donate your organs helps to give another person a chance at life. There are many ways and many opportunities to make a difference. You can donate bone marrow for transplant, and blood donations are always needed.


For more information on solid organ donation and transplant in the United States go to www.organdonor.gov. You won’t make the news, nobody will say you name, and there will not be parade in your honor. Do it anyway. Do it because you care. Someone will be forever grateful that you are their hero!

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