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Tuesday, May 3, 2016

Facts about organ donation

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

I am blessed to have a job that allows me to meet an amazing array of inspiring, brave people.

For the past few weeks, I've been doing interviews and writing stories for a series on organ donation -- and I've come across a whole slew of those people.

I have to admit that, for a long time, I was one of those people who was determined that I was going to leave this world with everything I came into it with. I pooh-poohed organ donation, reasoning that I had a twin sister and that if I needed an organ my mother would make her give it to me.

I went along like that for years.

My first true dealing with organ donation happened on Sept. 21, 2000 -- the day my son Andrew John was born and died.

My son died as a result of a birth defect we didn't know he had. I underwent a caesarian section, and he passed away about an hour and a half after he was born.

I laid on a gurney in a hallway for a long while after Andrew was born. After I was told he was gone, I was transferred upstairs to the medical-surgical unit.

I was barely off the gurney and into a bed when the phone on the nightstand in my room started jangling. As a reflex, I picked it up.

"Hello, Jamie. This is so-and-so from so-and-so (I don't remember the name of the person or the department). I wanted to express my condolences on the loss of your Andrew. Have you thought about organ donation?"

Organ donation? He was a premature baby. What did he have that anyone could use?

I burst into tears and handed the phone to my husband.

My husband spoke to the woman in hushed tones. After he hung up, he explained what she had said.

Andrew's kidneys could be harvested, and the cells could be used in research that was being conducted to develop a new heart medication.

And we only had a small window of time to decide what we wanted to do.

I didn't really understand the scientifics of it all, but I did know my father had struggled with heart disease for years, and that if my loss could go toward making it so another daughter didn't have to see her father suffer, that was a good thing.

We went ahead and did it.

After that, I made sure to note on my driver's license that I wanted to be a donor.

By the time I go I don't know what I'll have left, but whatever is there I want it to be used to help someone.

I've talked to a variety of people for this series I'm doing -- two sisters who donated kidneys for their siblings; a brother who donated his older brother's corneas to give someone else the gift of sight; a 61-year-old man who was able to get off dialysis thanks to the generosity of a family who allowed their deceased loved one's kidneys to be donated; a woman who had to tote around an oxygen tank for years before receiving a double lung transplant; the young father waiting to find a match so he can receive a kidney transplant.

The recipients were immensely grateful; the donors humble. Every story is vastly different, yet those emotions were common threads.

Are you an organ donor?

Here are some common myths about organ donation, dispelled by the United Network for Organ Sharing.

Myth: If emergency room doctors know you're an organ donor, they won't work as hard to save you.

Fact: If you are sick or injured and admitted to the hospital, the number one priority is to save your life.

Organ donation can only be considered after brain death has been declared by a physician. Many states have adopted legislation allowing individuals to legally designate their wish to be a donor should brain death occur.

Myth: Having "organ donor" noted on your driver's license or carrying a donor card is all you have to do to become a donor.

Fact: In most states, hospitals can legally proceed with organ, eye or tissue donation, without consent from next of kin, if you have a driver's license with an "organ donor" designation are have signed up with an organ donor registry.

However, it's important to talk to your family about your decision so they are aware of your wishes and will feel comfortable honoring them.

Myth: Only hearts, livers and kidneys can be transplanted.

Fact: Needed organs include the heart, kidneys, pancreas, lungs, liver and intestines. Tissue that can be donated include the eyes, skin, bone, heart valves and tendons.

Myth: You are too old to be a donor.

Fact: People of all ages and medical histories should consider themselves potential donors. Your medical condition at the time of death will determine what organs and tissue can be donated.

Myth: Organ donation disfigures the body and changes the way it looks in a casket.

Fact: Donated organs are removed surgically, in a routine operation similar to gallbladder or appendix removal.

Donation does not change the appearance of the body for the funeral service.

Myth: Your religion prohibits organ donation.

Fact: All major organized religions approve of organ and tissue donation and consider it an act of charity.

Jamie Barrand is the editor of the Banner Graphic. She can be contacted at jbarrand@bannergraphic.com.