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Have a Heart: Donate Life


February 14th is National Donor Day

This Valentine’s Day—and any day for that matter—is a great time to register as an organ, eye, and tissue donor! What better way to express love than to commit to saving and healing others?

Today in the U.S. more than 114,000 people are in need of an organ transplant. Even though 2017 was the biggest year in history for organ transplants, the Mayo Clinic says the nation still fell short (by a lot) with only 34,768 transplants performed last year. For more people to benefit from a lifesaving organ transplant, the country needs more donors.

Organ donation is the process of giving an organ or a part of an organ to another person who has been diagnosed with organ failure. Both deceased and living organ donation begins with a person who recognizes an opportunity to save another life. National Donor Day was established to raise awareness for organ, eye, tissue, marrow, platelet, and blood donation. In the United States, we aren’t required to be donors, but so many give of themselves because of a strong desire to help others.

Organ & Tissue Donation Works

Did you know that just one donor can save up to eight lives through organ donation and save or heal more than 75 lives through eye and tissue donation? Here’s how:

  • A kidney transplant can save a life and eliminate the need for dialysis which can take from 12 to 15 hours a week.
  • A pancreas transplant means no more insulin injections for a diabetic.
  • An intestine transplant allows a person being fed intravenously to eat normally again.
  • Heart, heart/lung, lung, and liver transplants save lives.
  • Corneal transplants can restore lost sight.
  • Bone transplants can repair joints and save limbs threatened by cancer.
  • Donated skin provides a temporary covering and protection from pain and infection for burn victims.
  • A heart valve can repair a poorly-functioning heart.
  • Veins are used to improve blood flow to the legs and help to avoid amputation.

Facts Over Fiction

Unfortunately, continuing myths regarding organ donation are still believed by many. “It’s important for people to know the facts,” says David Fleming, President and CEO of Donate Life America. “For health professionals, the number one priority is always to save the lives of their patients—only after death is organ and tissue donation considered. While you can recover from comas, brain death is permanent, irreparable.”

MYTH: Your wishes will be honored if you register as a donor.
FACT: Even if you’re a registered donor, it’s essential your family know your wishes. Your family may be asked to sign a consent form for your donation to occur. If you’ve told them you’re a registered donor, you give them the gift of being able to carry out your wishes with confidence.

MYTH: If doctors know I’m a donor, they won’t try to save my life.
FACT: If you’re sick or injured and admitted to the hospital, the first priority is to save your life. Medical professionals are required by law and medical oath to do everything they can to save your life. Organ, eye, and tissue donation can only be considered after you are deceased. A separate team of medical professionals becomes involved at that time.

MYTH: I’m too old to donate.
FACT: Age limits for organ donation no longer exist. Newborns through the elderly can donate.  Other factors, not age, will determine if a donation takes place.

MYTH: My religion doesn’t allow organ and tissue donation.
FACT: All major U.S. religions support organ donation or the right of individual members to make this decision. Most consider it a generous act of charity.

MYTH: I can’t donate because I have a serious medical condition (cancer, diabetes, heart disease, etc.)
FACT: With recent advances in transplantation, more people than ever can donate. Careful testing of organs and tissues is performed after a person passes away to determine which organs may be safely donated. Almost everyone (except those with certain blood or eye cancers) can donate corneas to help restore vision, even when other organs or tissue cannot be used.

MYTH: My family will have to pay for the procedure.
FACT: A donor’s family is never charged for donation.

MYTH: Doctors might take my organs before I am really dead.
FACT: Organ donation is only accepted following official declaration of death by a doctor NOT involved in transplantation. To donate organs, a patient must be declared dead.

MYTH: Celebrities, rich people, or people with the right connections can jump ahead of ordinary people on the waiting list.
FACT: When a person is on the waiting list for an organ, what matters is the severity of the illness, the length time on the wait list, blood type of the person waiting, and other important medical details, not connections, wealth, or celebrity status.

MYTH: I can’t donate because I want an open casket funeral.
FACT: Surgical techniques are used to retrieve organs and tissues, and all incisions are closed. The body is treated with dignity and respect. No one but the family will know that donation took place.

Choose Life Today

Donate Life America says the majority of Americans support organ donation, but just 30% take the steps necessary to becoming a donor. The best way to make a difference is to make sure you are on the North Carolina organ, eye, and tissue donor registry. There are no age limits on donation and most people with pre-existing conditions can donate something, so join the millions of your neighbors who have pledged to save lives!

You have three ways to join the donation registry:

  • Join the registry at your nearest DMV office.
  • Register yourself online here.
  • If you have an iPhone with iOS 10, you can register from your phone using the Health app!

If you have questions about any healthcare issue, contact the primary care providers at Coastal Carolina Health Care by calling (252) 633-4111 or visiting www.cchchealthcare.com.

(Sources: The Mayo Clinic; The Colby Foundation; American Transplant Foundation; Donate Life NC; Donor Alliance; and Donate Life America.)