Someone you are related to, someone you work with or someone you know may be waiting for an organ transplant. According to the United Network for Organ Sharing, more than 123,000 men, women and children currently need lifesaving organ transplants. And although there have been advances in medical technology and donations, the demand for organ, eye and tissue donation still greatly exceeds the number of donors.
I see how these numbers impact people — patients and their families — almost every day.
Patients in need of a transplant remain hopeful. Their families think about and pray every day for an organ to become available to help save their loved one.
I have spent 10 years helping people who are waiting for a kidney transplant, and seeing the gift of an organ donor still leaves me speechless. Families of the organ recipient always ask for ideas and suggestions for how they can express their never-ending thanks for the gift so freely given.
Yet, in spite of our best intentions and the availability of lots of factual information, inaccuracies and misinformation about organ donation persist. The fact is anyone can be a potential donor regardless of age, race or medical history. All major religions in the United States support organ, eye and tissue donation. There is no cost to the donor or their family for organ or tissue donation.
The decision to be an organ and tissue donor is a powerful one. I often hear from donor families that their loved one’s donation was the one positive thing that came out of a terrible tragedy. Many families say that knowing their loved one helped save and heal lives gave them great comfort and strength during their time of grief.
Many great resources are available for people considering the life-giving gift of organ donation. One of the best is mayoclinic.org, where you can search for facts about organ donation, transplant surgery and the latest innovations in organ transplantation.
Another good resource is LifeSource, a non-profit organization serving people across Minnesota, North, South Dakota and parts of Wisconsin. They work with hospitals and other community partners to support donor families and encourage people to register as donors. For more information about LifeSource, you can reach them at life-source.org or 888-5-DONATE (toll-free).
I strongly urge you and your family members to discuss this important topic and consider saving lives. Become an organ donor.
Stephanie Stewart is a trained and licensed social worker. She works as an operations administrator at Mayo Clinic Health System in Mankato and is a member of the National Kidney Foundation Board of Directors.