Become a donor and save a life 

Become a donor and save a life 

Very likely you have heard of and maybe have already signed up to be an organ donor.  If so, good for you.  April is National Donate Life Month encouraging the public to register as organ, eye and tissue donors to help save the life of others.

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When you sign up to be a donor, you may potentially be helping save the life of a family member or stranger through this gift of life. What makes being a donor special is the choice you have in deciding how you want to help.  Besides organ donation – for example, liver or kidney – you can also sign up to be a blood donor and a peripheral blood stem cell (PBSC) and bone marrow donor.

Here’s a look at the difference between organ, PBSC and bone marrow donations and blood donations:

·      Organ Donor

One of the most selfless acts one can do is to sign up to be an organ donor. One organ donor can save 8 lives and change the lives of more than 50 people. People of all ages and medical histories should consider themselves potential donors.  At the time of your death, your medical condition will be determined as to what organs and tissue can be donated. The organs and tissues that can be donated include the heart, lungs, kidneys, pancreas, liver, intestines, corneas, skin, tendons, bone, nerve, and heart valves.

Even if you have indicated your wishes on your driver’s license, this information will be shared with your family so they are aware of your wishes.  To help determine where your organs and tissue may go to, a national computer system and strict standards are in place to ensure ethical and fair distribution of organs.  Organs are matched by blood and tissue typing, organ size, medical urgency, waiting time, and geographic location. There is also no cost to the donor’s family or estate for organ and tissue donation. You should also know that 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.  Information about an organ donation is only released to the recipient if the family of the donor requests or agrees to it. Otherwise, a patient’s privacy is maintained for both donor families and recipients.

·      PBSC Donation and Bone Marrow Donor

Every 3 seconds someone is diagnosed with a blood cancer such as leukemia or Hodgkin’s/Non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. By being a PBSC or bone marrow donor, you can help save someone’s life by being their cure for their disease.

PBSC donation is a nonsurgical procedure called apheresis and is the most common way to donate. For five days leading up to the donation, you will be given injections of a drug called filgrastim, to increase the number of cells in your bloodstream that are used for transplant. Some of your blood is then removed through a needle in one arm and passed through a machine that separates out the blood-forming cells. The remaining blood is returned to your through the other arm.

Bone marrow donation is a surgical, usually outpatient procedure.  You will receive anesthesia and feel no pain during the donation. Doctors use a needle to withdraw liquid marrow from the back of your pelvic bone. Bone marrow donation primarily focuses on recruiting individuals ages 18 to 44.  The reason for this is based on medical research, it shows younger donors are best for patients and provide the greatest chance for transplant success. Because of this, doctors request donors in the 18 to 44 age group 86% of the time. If you are between the ages of 45 and 60 and want to join the one marrow registry, you must do so online at Be The Match.

Becoming a bone marrow donor is an important commitment. If you are found to be a potential match for a patient, you will be given all the information you need to make this decision.

·      Blood Donor

Here are some eye-opening facts about blood donations:

·      Every 2 seconds someone in the United States needs blood.

·      About one in seven people entering a hospital needs blood.

·      Blood is always needed for treatment for accident victims, cancer patients, hemophiliacs and surgery patients.

·      Blood cannot be manufactured.

·      Only 37 percent of our country’s population is eligible to give blood, and less than 10 percent of those who can donate actually do donate annually.

      Every day, blood donors help patients of all ages from accidents, burns, cancer patients, heart surgery and organ transplants survive. In order to be considered as a blood donor, you must be in good health and feeling well, be at least 16 years of age, and weigh at least 110 pounds. To learn more about being a blood donor, contact the American Red Cross.