Every April, we celebrate National Donate Life Month and bring awareness to organ, eye, and tissue donations to encourage people in our nation to register as an organ donor and give the ultimate gift – the gift of life.
In Kentucky, many would be surprised to learn that over 1,000 Kentuckians are currently awaiting a life-saving organ donation.
Nationally, statistics show nearly 90 percent of adults believe in not only the power but the importance of organ donation. However, only 60 percent are signed up as organ donors.
In Kentucky, 97 percent of people say they support organ donation. However, only 83 percent said they would actually donate and only 59 percent of Kentuckians are actually signed up to be organ donors.
Currently, there are over 100,000 people on the organ donation transplant waiting list. Every 10 minutes, another person is added to that list. Just one organ donor has the possibility of saving the lives of eight people and helping 50 others have a better future with the transplant they receive which could include skin, cornea, and even hands or feet for those in need like amputees. Twenty-two people die every day waiting on a life-saving organ that never arrives. Of those, the most in-demand organ on the list is the kidney, followed by the liver, lungs, heart, and a variety of other organs we all need to survive.
The need for organ donation does not discriminate and includes all ages, ethnicities, and genders. The importance of donor diversity should also not be overlooked, although it is not a requirement for a donor match, it does help to ensure a better match is found for the individual needing an organ.
Some may think that they are too old to sign up to give the gift of life through organ donation, which is entirely false. The only restriction requires parents or guardians to authorize donation for anyone who is under the age of 18. Recently a 95-year-old man was able to save someone’s life when he donated a liver. Locally, the oldest donor in the state of Kentucky was 83 years old. Through her donation, she was able to save the lives of three Kentuckians.
The list of organs a donor can donate is very diverse. Organ donations range from more common and high-demand organs such as heart, kidney, lungs, liver, pancreas, and small intestines, to the gift of sight with cornea transplants. Tissue donation includes bone, cartilage, fascia, heart valves, ligaments, pericardium, skin, tendons, and veins which help burn victims, cancer patients, babies born with heart defects, and athletes in need of ligaments and tendons.
Some may not know there are also options to sign up to become a living donor. Not all organ donations are made after your passing. Living donations include kidneys and segments of the liver, lung, and pancreas. All of these types of donations and transplants can be made without any reduced function in the donor’s body and in turn can help save someone’s life who otherwise may not have had a chance at survival. However, living donors must qualify through a hospital transplant program in order to be considered.
This month, and through the rest of the year, please take a moment to consider organ donation. There is no greater gift we can give than the gift of life.
For more information, or to donate, visit lifeky.org or call Kentucky Organ Donor Affiliates (KODA) at (508) 581-9511.
Statistics were taken from donatelifeky.org