Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Organ Donation: Turning a Tragedy into Triumph

     Dealing with end-of- life circumstances can be difficult and painful for all parties involved. The unfortunate and sometimes untimely loss of a loved one is devastating to families. It is, however, important to discuss how the family, and the recently departed, can be sure that a part of them lives on after their passing, and give the gift of life to another human being.
     April is National Donate Life Month. This month-long campaign Instituted in 2003 by Donate Life America, a nonprofit group of local and national organizations that has the goal of educating the public about organ, eye, and tissue donation, and to advise them about the process to register as an organ donor.

     Meritus Medical Center works directly with The Living Legacy Foundation of Maryland, a nonprofit organization that helps to facilitate the donation process of organs in several counties in Maryland, including Washington County.

An Organ Recipients’ Story
     Mike Butler, of Hagerstown, Md., was a kidney and pancreas recipient in March of 1995. He said that life prior to receiving his transplant was not easy.

     “Dialysis was not good to me,” he said. “I cramped up from head to toe in the first 10 minutes of a three and a half hour treatment.
     Butler also said that he was on Insulin and took more than 25 pills a day. Now, he takes six pills a day.

     He said that receiving the organs from his donor, Kelly, has changed his life, and improved his health.
     “I feel great! I am a firm believer that faith, diet, exercise, listening to your body, and health care team has got me through so much,” he said.

     Butler went on to say that he carries Kelly’s spirit in everything that he does, and that if he were to die tomorrow, he would have no regrets, just a smile on his face and a grateful heart.
     For people who are hesitant about becoming organ donors, Butler says that a donation could have a significant impact on numerous lives.
     “Even if you couldn’t be an organ donor, you could be a prime candidate to be a tissue donor,” he said. “You can’t take your organs to heaven, leave them for someone who needs them.”
     He also has advice for people who are waiting for an organ donation.

     “Do all that you can to keep yourself as strong and as healthy as you can to make it to the transplant,” he said. “Take your meds, eat right and listen to your doctor. Most of all, Stay positive.”
Dispelling Organ Donation Myths
     If I agree to donate my organs, emergency medical services and hospital personnel won’t work to save my life? This is not true. Emergency services and hospital personnel make every effort possible to give you, the patient, the highest level of care possible. They will exhaust all resources available to save your life.

     People Under the age of 18 can’t make the decision to donate organs. It is true that legally, a minor under the age of 18 cannot make this decision on their own, but a parent or guardian can make the decision on behalf of the donor. The reality is that children and teenagers are also on the waiting list for organ donation. They may be able to benefit from organs that come from younger people.
     I am not in the best of health, and my organs are not viable. This is not the case for every person. Certain organs may be able to be transplanted while other organs, skin, or tissue cannot be transplanted. Medical professionals can determine what is and is not viable at the time of death.

     People who Donate Organs cannot have an open-casket funeral. Organ donation does not interfere with having an open-casket funeral. The donor is clothed during the funeral, and funeral homes make every effort possible to be sure that the donor looks as presentable as possible.
     I can’t donate organs because I am too old. Again, this is not true. Being an older citizen does not automatically exclude you from having viable organs that can be transplanted into another individual. Medical personnel, at the time of death, can make the decision on which organs can be used and which organs cannot.

How to Register for Organ Donation
     As of April 01, 2014, more than 2.5 million people in Maryland registered for organ donation. Registration is not complicated. Donate for Life recommends that organ donors do the following to make their organ donation wishes known:

  1. Register online at
    • Click on the Register Online button and follow the steps
    • You can also check or change your status.
  2. Register through the MVA (Motor Vehicle Administration). This can be completed in person or online.
  3. Lastly, make your wishes known to friends, family members, and your next of kin. Having this documented in writing, in the form of a living will, can help your family when they are making end-of-life decisions.
There is no question that losing a loved-one is a crushing blow to the family and friends that are left behind. Furthermore, it is a part of the human experience that everyone must deal with at some point, but by becoming an organ, eye, or tissue donor, the dearly departed can live on by giving the gift of life to others, and turning a tragic situation for one person into a triumphant victory for another..

By Mark H. Russ



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