I began signing the back of my driver’s license as soon as I was able. Always a giving person, I viewed this as one more way I could offer something to others. In the case of organ donation, it was something major. A gift. In recent years it has become easier to register for organ donation. You can register online at your state’s registry, or you can register at your local DMV. This streamlined registry and finality of having your name on a list is great for those on the transplant list, but it can be scary for someone considering donation. I know this because I’ve signed my license for years, but when I signed up the DMV and they handed me the license with the little donor symbol on the front, it felt different. Every myth about organ donation crept into my mind.
“When you’re a donor they don’t work as hard to save you.”
Surprisingly enough, this is one of the biggest fears and deterrents of organ donation registry. Many people assume that when other lives are depending on your organs, a medical team will not work as hard to save your own life. This is simply not true. For someone to become a deceased donor, they must die in a very specific way. They usually succumb to illness or accident which results in head trauma, brain aneurysm, or stroke and are treated with every life-saving measure until no progress is made and brain death is confirmed. Only once brain death testing has been completed do medical professionals consider organ donation.
“The list is rigged.”
Every 10 minutes another person is added to the donation waiting list, yet only about 3 in every 1,000 deaths allows for organ donation. The United Network for Organ Sharing (UNOS) is the most efficient way to get the right organ with the right blood type to the person most in need at the time. Wait times and matches depend on five criteria: medical urgency, blood and tissue type as well as size match, genetic makeup, time on the waiting list, and proximity between donor and recipient.
“You can’t have an open casket if you donate your eyes.”
Funeral homes are equipped to prepare for an open casket for organ, eye, and tissue donors. Throughout the entire process of medical care, organ collection, and funeral preparations, the body is treated with dignity.
“You can’t donate because…”
There are no medical conditions or illnesses that bar you from becoming an organ donor. Once organ donation becomes a possibility upon your death, your organs and tissues will be examined to determine viability. Only active cancer or systemic infection will prevent you from becoming an organ donor. Systemic infections are those that affect the entire body and may include hepatitis B and C and HIV. Though you may hear rumors that you’ll be disqualified for sexual preference or activity and other factors including travel, these are not listed on Organdonor.gov.
Just Do It
If you haven’t looked into it, take this month to acquaint yourself with the possibility of organ donation. April is National Donate Life Month, and donating organs is donating life. If you’re already an organ donor, share on social media to raise awareness. Demystify donation so that more lives can be saved.