Noyes News and Events

December 25, 2017

Give the Gift of Life

During this season of giving and as the calendar turns to 2018, it is a good time to reflect on what we can do to help our family, friends, and neighbors here and throughout the country.  In a day and age, when the daily news cycle can be less than inspiring, there are still miracles.  One of those is the gift of life through organ donation.  One organ donor can save up to eight lives. The same donor can also save or improve the lives of up to 50 people by donating tissues and eyes.  Organs and tissues that can be donated and transplanted from a deceased individual include kidneys, heart, lungs, liver, pancreas, intestines, hands, face, corneas, skin, heart valves, bone, veins, cartilage, tendons, and ligaments.

According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, 116,000 men, women, and children were on the national transplant waiting list as of August 2017.  In 2016, 33,611 transplants were performed.  Sadly, 20 people die each day waiting for a transplant. In New York State, someone dies every 18 hours waiting for an organ transplant.  Each year, more than one million people need lifesaving and life-improving tissues, and eyes.  The first step to helping these patients is to sign up for organ donation.

Thirty percent of New Yorkers age 18 and over have enrolled in the New York State Donate Life Registry as organ, tissue, and eye donors. Nationwide, the average is 52%.  As many people are needed as possible because only 3 in 1,000 people die in a way that allows for organ  donation.  Some possible reasons for organ donor rejection are testing HIV positive, active cancer in a certain organ or throughout the body, an injury that damaged the organs, or the organs not being viable due to a significant time lapse since death.  Experts urge everyone, however, to sign up and not disqualify him or herself.  Don’t assume you are too young, too old, too out of shape, too sick, or too anything.  If you are on the registry, a team of experts will determine what may or may not be used when you pass.

Organ donation enrollment is lagging often times due to misconceptions regarding organ donation.  Here are few facts from the LiveOnNY.org website:

  1. Anytime you are in a hospital, doctors will do all they can to save your life. Donation only occurs after the death of a patient is declared by physicians who are legally not affiliated with donation.

  2. The factors that determine who receives an organ include severity of illness, time spent on the waiting list, and blood type. Financial or celebrity status has no bearing on determining who receives a transplant.

  3. Donation takes place under the same sterile conditions as any medical procedure. A donor’s body is never disfigured and donation does not interfere with funeral arrangements. Open casket services are possible.

  4. If you’re a donor, your family does not pay any bills related to donation.                                                                     

  5. All major religions support donation.

  6. It is illegal to buy and sell organs in the U.S. The system for matching donor organs and potential recipients is regulated by the Federal Government.

There are many ways to document your wish to be an organ, tissue and eye donor in New York State. Any state resident, 16 years of age or older, may join the New York State Donate Life Registry.

1. At the New York State Department of Motor Vehicles: Check off the donor box on your driver’s license application or renewal form, or when applying for or renewing a non-driver identification card.

2. Online at www.donatelife.ny.gov/: New York State recently launched a new, fully electronic registry that allows residents to enroll online and create an account so the user can make updates or changes to their registration status in the future.

3. By Mail: Download a Donor Registry enrollment form at www.donatelife.ny.gov/download-forms/. Complete and mail the form to Donate Life New York State at the address found at the bottom of the form.

4. Other State Forms: In New York, you may also register as an organ, eye and tissue donor on the voter registration form as well as on the New York State of Health Benefit Exchange form.

For more information, please visit:  www.donorrecovery.org.

 No matter which method you choose to enroll, you will receive confirmation by mail from the New York State Department of Health that you are a designated donor.  At that time, you can specify which organs and tissues you may wish to exclude as a donor.

As 2017 ends, consider giving one last gift, the gift of life through organ donation.

Lorraine Wichtowski is a community health educator at UR Medicine Noyes Health in Dansville, NY.  If you have questions or ideas for future articles, contact Lorraine at (585)335-4327 or lwichtowski@noyeshealth.org.