February 14 is Valentine’s Day, a day set aside to celebrate love and romance. It is not usually a day when we want to ponder our own mortality, but it also happens to be National Organ Donor Day.
There is something we can do right now to help others after we’ve gone. We can offer the precious gift of life through organ donation.
The need is great: As of February 1, 2010, there were 105,525 people waiting for an organ for transplant, and approximately 35,000 children and adults in our country have life-threatening blood diseases that could be treated by a marrow/blood stem cell or cord blood transplant.
Almost everyone is eligible to register for organ and/or tissue donation, with few exclusions (HIV positive, active cancer, systemic infection). Even if you’ve got a medical condition you can still register to be a donor — medical suitability is determined at the time of death.
Age is generally not a factor in registering, but people under the age of 18 will need parental approval.
In addition to organ donation, there is a need for bone marrow and cord blood donation and transplantation. Each year more than 10,000 children and adults with life-threatening diseases need a bone marrow or cord blood transplant from an unrelated donor. A bone marrow transplant (also called a BMT) or cord blood transplant replaces a patient’s diseased blood-forming cells with healthy cells.
The umbilical cord and placenta are rich with blood-forming cells. These cells can be used to treat patients with leukemia, lymphoma or certain inherited metabolic or immune system disorders.
Because a close match in tissue type is necessary, donors of certain races and ethnicities are greatly needed, specifically, Black or African-American, Native Americans, Native Alaskans, Asians, Native Hawaiian or other Pacific Islander, Hispanic or Latino.
It’s not a complicated process to become a donor. Most states have donor registries or allow you to register through renewal of your driver’s license. Informing family members of your decision will avoid confusion and delay at time of death. All expenses related to organ donation are deferred to the recipient, so you will incur no charges by donating.
Until you get around to making it official, you can simply download and fill out an organ donor card. Be sure to carry it with you.
Now is as good a time as any to consider becoming a donor. And as long as you’re thinking about giving the gift of life, why not make it official? I’m an organ donor. Are you?
For more information on organ donation: OrganDonor.gov
National Donor Day was started in 1998 by the Saturn Corporation and its United Auto Workers partners with the support of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and many nonprofit health organizations.