Blog Material Written By: Corey Edmonds, MPH, Community Health Worker
Donate Life Month is officially observed in April, however, it is never a bad time to talk about giving the greatest gift of all: LIFE. As of February 2021, there were a total of more than 107,000 men, women, and children listed on the national transplant waiting list. Sadly, approximately 17 of those people die every day waiting for a donor match while someone else is added to the waiting list every 9 minutes on average.
Donate Life Month is intended to spread awareness about and to encourage organ, eye, and tissue donation. Why is this awareness so critical? Because just one organ donor has the capability to save as many as eight different lives and only three out of every 1,000 people who die do so in a manner that allows for the donation of organs. Supporting organ donation is not enough. We ALL must REGISTER. Research shows that approximately 90% of Americans support organ donation, but only around 60% are actually registered to donate. If everyone who supports organ donation gets registered, the organ transplant waiting list – and people having to wait for a match – could become a thing of the past.
Generally speaking, each state has its own organization that oversees the organ donation processes. These organizations are otherwise known as Organ Procurement Organizations or OPO’s. Representatives from the OPO’s are the first ones to initiate the donation conversation with medical staff as well as with the family and loved ones of the injured or end-of-life patient. They don’t stop there – there are several different representatives from these organizations that work together to ensure the entire process goes smoothly while being sure to respect the integrity and wishes of the donor and donor family. One set of staff will come in to take over immediate care of the patient up until the patient is taken to the operating room to have the organs harvested. Another set of staff comes in to oversee the actual operation of harvesting while yet another comes in to make sure the organs are safely transported to the recipients that are eagerly awaiting their arrival. These people are truly healthcare heroes.
For the state of Maryland, the designated OPO is The Living Legacy Foundation of Maryland, while for the states of West Virginia and Pennsylvania, the designated OPO is The Center for Organ Recovery and Education, also known as C.O.R.E. Nationally, Donate Life America is the organization that handles the promotion of organ donation, getting people registered, and raising awareness for various issues surrounding organ donation.
The Health Resources and Services Administration and organdonor.gov have put together a very informational and educational video to help people better understand the organ procurement process. The video can be accessed via the link below.