I use this saying all the time: "Life is the first gift, love the second and understanding the third." All three of these come together for organ donations.
As a family physician, I feel it is important to discuss organ donation with my patients. I feel it is important to add my voice to the many voices of those who have labored long and hard to make organ donations a reality. It is a privilege to be part of such an important decision, a part of such generosity and the ultimate gesture of humanity.
It is a time that should be planned. We often plan for the birth of a child. But we often do not plan for death. Yet we know it will come. By making this decision in advance, you may relieve the devastation of another person who is condemned to a life of sorrow because of a needed organ.
There are several questions often asked about organ donation. It may be helpful to share with everyone by just giving the answers:
1. You can help up to 50 people by saying "yes" to organ and tissue donation on your donor card or on your driver's license.
2. The kidneys, heart, lungs, liver, pancreas and intestines are the organs that can be transplanted.
3. Blood vessels, bone, bone marrow, connective tissue, corneas, heart valves, middle ears and skin are among the tissues that can be transplanted.
4. Special networks that specialize in matching donated organs with patients who are critically ill make their decisions based on medical urgency, compatibility of blood chemistries and body size.
5. Typically donor families are told the age, sex, occupation and other general characteristics of the recipient. If both the donor family and the recipient agree, they may exchange names, correspond and even meet.
6. No testing is needed before you sign up as a designated donor. However, donation organs are tested for infectious diseases, including HIV. Only healthy organs are transplanted.
7. Being a registered donor does not in any way affect the care you receive in an emergency. The medical team is committed to saving your life first. Only when the team cannot do this is the issue of transplantation considered.
8. Organ donation does not cost you or your family anything.
9. Donations do not change the appearance of the body for viewing and funeral services.
10. Most religions support donation as a gift of life to fellow human beings.
Organ donation gives life, love and understanding all at one time.
I congratulate MOTTEP — the V.I. Minority Organ/Tissue Transplant Education Program — for its advocacy to give life through organ donations.
Dr. Cora L.E. Christian
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