Being an organ donor can be the difference between life and death for someone who is in dire need of an organ transplant.
Such was the case for Jamie Hansard, who discovered she had stage four kidney disease last February. The doctors said she needed a kidney transplant, preferably from a living donor, so she was put on the wait list.
But there are a lot of people in need of organ transplants. Currently, according to the U.S. Government Information on Organ Donation and Transplantation, there are more than 119,000 people on the transplant waiting list, and every 10 minutes, another person is added to the list.
Hansard’s friends and family went through the testing process to see if they were a match. The testing process living donors complete to determine if they’re a compatible match may include urine tests, X-rays, blood tests, psychiatric evaluations, and other tests. Luckily, Hansard’s friend Sara Gragg was an eligible donor, and the transplant surgery was successful. But unfortunately, this isn’t the case for everyone.
According to statistics from organdonor.gov, 22 people die every day waiting for a transplant, so it’s important to register if you wish to be an organ donor. Their statistics state that 95% of U.S. adults support organ donation, but only 48% are registered.
Below is information on who is eligible to be an organ donor, how to register, and what organs can be donated.
Who can be a donor?
All U.S. adults can be an organ donor, and some states allow people under 18 to sign up, but authorization by a parent or legal guardian is needed to be a donor if underage. There is no age limit for who can donate. Most religions approve or even encourage people to be organ donors, although some religions may not be as open to it as others or have certain restrictions.
Organ donation can be from someone living or deceased, depending on the organ. Donation is determined on a match basis from blood or tissue type, medical need, amount of time on the waiting list, and geographical location.
Even if you have a medical condition, don’t let that stop you from registering — there are only a few illnesses and conditions that prevent you from being an organ donor, such as active cancer or a systemic infection.
How do you register to be a donor?
To register as an organ donor, you can either sign up online or at your state’s motor vehicle office. It only takes a few minutes to sign up online, and you just need to enter some identification information and your driver’s license or photo identification number. Most states let you specify if you only want to donate certain organs. Having an organ donor card may not be enough, because there isn’t a way of knowing you’re a donor if the card isn’t with you — that’s why registering is so important.
If you have an iPhone, you can even register as a donor through your Medical ID in the Health app. Your Medical ID also can be helpful to first responders if you’re ever in an emergency situation because it’s accessible even when your phone is locked and provides them with whatever medical information you disclose.
You can change your mind if you no longer want to be an organ donor, but you may need to get a new driver’s license if the organ donor sticker is not removable.
What organs can you donate?
Organs that can be donated are the heart, kidneys, pancreas, lungs, liver, intestines, and, recently, hands and faces. Tissues that can be donated are corneas, skin, heart valves, bones, blood vessels, and connective tissue. Bone marrow, stem cells, umbilical cord blood, and peripheral blood stem cells also can be donated.
Organ donation allows people to have a second chance at life. There are many ways to make a difference in someone’s life and honor the life of an organ donor. Whether it’s donating your time to volunteer or charity work, or helping others grieve the loss of a loved one, you can pay tribute to someone’s life, or even save it.