by Kylie Blanchard
This is the number of people in the United States currently waiting for an organ transplant. In just the Upper Midwest states of North Dakota, South Dakota and Minnesota the number of individuals waiting for a transplant totals 3,400.
According to Rebecca Ousley, senior public relations coordinator for LifeSource, which manages all organ donations in North Dakota, South Dakota and Minnesota, the nation’s transplant list grows by 100 people daily and 18 people die each day waiting for a transplant.
“There is a shortage of organs and this has continued for some time,” Ousley notes. “Organ donation is a very successful treatment for end stage organ failure, but it depends on the generosity of others.”
However, the number of people who are registered as donors continues to grow and North Dakota has one of the highest rates of registration in the nation. Sixty-six percent of North Dakotans are registered donors, compared to the national rate of 45 percent.
“Each person who registers as a donor can save up to 60 people with their organs, tissues and eyes,” says Ousley, adding everyone is a potential organ donor and age and health criteria are evaluated on an individual basis at the time of death.
Organs that can be donated include the heart, lungs, kidneys, pancreas, liver and intestines. Donated tissues include skin, veins, tendons, bone, heart valves and connective tissue. The whole eye or cornea can also be donated.
In addition to facilitating the organ donation process, LifeSource’s programs also focus on educating healthcare and medical professionals about organ donation, supporting families of organ and tissues donors and helping individuals register as donors.
In North Dakota, individuals have the option to register as organ donors when renewing their driver’s license or identification card or they can register anytime at www.donatelifend.org.
Ousley says awareness of organ donation is the key to encouraging more individuals to become donors. Education about the donation process and its life-saving benefits often begins with individuals and families sharing stories of how they were saved or impacted by organ donation. “Often people don’t have the information and don’t think about organ donation until it impacts them.”
April is National Donate Life Month, which provides a forum for individuals to share their stories. “There are 350 volunteers in North Dakota, South Dakota and Minnesota who share their stories of donation. Donations are not just numbers. Behind each number is a face and story,” says Ousley.
She adds social media has also provided a great resource for sharing information and stories about organ donation, and encouraging more individuals to become registered donors.
It is also important individuals talk to their support system about the decision to be an organ donor. If an individual hasn’t registered to be an organ and tissue donor, their family will be asked to make the decision on their behalf. “This is important to share with family and friends so they are ready to support their decision,” says Ousley.
Additional information on organ donation is available by calling LifeSource at 1-888-5DONATE or visiting www.donatelifend.org.
Fast Facts about Organ Donation
• The oldest organ donor was 92 years old.
• All major religions in the United States support organ donation.
• During the donation process, an individual’s body is treated with care, respect and dignity.
• An open casket funeral is possible for organ, eye and tissue donors.
•There is no cost to the donor or the donor’s family for donation.
• Identities of both the recipient and the donor family are confidential.
• Letters can be sent to the donors’ families regarding the organ recipients and their age, sex and how their health has improved.
• Some donor families and recipients correspond anonymously.
• Occasionally, both sides will correspond directly or even meet.
(Source: www.donatelifemidwest.org, www.donatelife.net, www.life-source.org)