There are currently more than 114,000 men, women and children on the national transplant waiting list and a new person is added every ten minutes.

At some point throughout our day, all of us have some interaction involving the topic of organ donation.

We might see an ad in a newspaper or magazine, or hear about it on television or the radio.

All of us 18 years of age and older who have any kind of state or military issued identification have all been asked if we want to be an organ donor.

Maybe you know someone who needs an organ to save their life. Or perhaps, you are one of the few whose family member died and their organs were donated to save the lives of others.

There are currently more than 114,000 men, women and children on the national transplant waiting list and a new person is added every ten minutes.

More than 2,000 people on this list are in Louisiana.

Unfortunately, more than 8,000 people on that same list will die this year while waiting. That is approximately 22 people every day. Organ donation is not a totally new concept for us.

Doctors began experimenting in the early 1900s with a kidney being successfully transplanted in animals in Austria.

In 1933 the first human-to-human kidney transplant was performed.

Unfortunately, the doctors were not aware that the donor and recipient needed to have the same blood types and the transplant failed.

The first successful human kidney transplant was performed by Dr. Joseph Murray in Boston giving one twin a kidney from the other.

Through years of research, doctors have worked to perfect the routine we use today that has helped recipients live by receiving organs and tissue from both living and deceased donors.

In 2017 there were 34,770 organ transplants performed in the United States. Additionally, there were 84,000 corneal transplants and more than 1 million tissue transplants performed.

All of these organs and tissue came from 42,609 living and deceased donors.

While the majority of organs and tissue come from deceased donors there is plenty of living donors.

Most living donations happen among family members or between close friends, but not all of them.

Living donors can donate one of two kidneys, one of two lobes of their liver, a lung or part of a lung, part of a pancreas and part of the intestines.

Some of the tissues donated by living donors are; skin, after certain surgeries such as an abdominoplasty, bone after knee and hip replacements, healthy cells from bone marrow and umbilical cord blood, amnion, donated after childbirth and blood, including white and red blood cells, platelets, and the serum that carries blood cells throughout the circulatory system.

A healthy body will replace some tissues such as blood or bone marrow allowing a donor to donate more than once.
By far the hardest, most difficult thing about organ donation is discussing it with your family.

It is hard for some of us to discuss our own death or that of a loved one. We may encounter a loved one who refuses to think about such a taboo thing. Or one may fear that a donation is against their religion.

In fact, all major religions around the world support organ and tissue donation and view it as one's final act of compassion and generosity.

In reality, anyone can be an organ and tissue donor, living or deceased, regardless of your age, race, sex or medical history. Even if you have a history of cancer, heart disease, diabetes, poor diet or poor eyesight you may still be a donor. Even if you are under the age of 18, if you wish to be a donor, discuss it with your guardian.

In the event you die and they are aware of your wishes they can give the necessary consent to facilitate a donation. Some may refuse to be a donor because they fear it will interfere with their own life-saving medical care.

The fact is that organ, eye and tissue donation is only an option after all life-saving attempts have been made and death has been declared.

Once it has been decided that you are donating your organs your family will sign consent forms and the process will begin.

The donor will be put on or kept on, life-support to maintain organ functions while the Donate Life America or the state’s organ procurement program is notified of the donation so they can find suitable matches.

Then the surgical team is assembled and they begin recovering the donated organs and tissue. The recovery process takes approximately 12-36 hours after death occurs.

Other facts surrounding organ and tissue donations are that there is absolutely no cost to donors. Also, organ donations do not prevent open casket funerals. Donated organs and tissues are surgically removed with the utmost dignity and respect.

Furthermore, recipients on the waiting list are not categorized based on wealth, citizenship or status.

It is illegal in the United States to buy or sell any organs or distribute organs to recipients on the waiting list based on these classifications. Recipients receive donated organs based on how they are matched with the donor.

In the state of Louisiana, there are currently 2.27 million registered donors. They have already made the decision to donate once their death has occurred.

If you are not one of those already registered through your driver’s license or state ID, you can make your decision to be an organ donor known to your family now. You can also include organ donation in your Health Care Power of Attorney.

If you do not leave any instructions about organ donation, Louisiana Law (La. Rev. St. §17:2354.3) determines who will make the decision for you after your death.

For a minor, it becomes the child’s parents. For adults it will be the following, in order of precedence:

Your health care power of attorney Your spouse Your adult children Your adult siblings Your adult grandchildren Your grandparents An adult who exhibited special care or concern for you The person acting as your guardian at the time of your death Any other person authorized to handle the disposition of your body

So, now is the time to ask, are you a registered organ donor? Will you give the ultimate gift of life to someone waiting?

For more information about organ donation visit www.donatelife.net or www.organdonor.gov.