Most of us don’t give organ and tissue donation much thought. But there is a group of people in this country — 117,929 people as of 11:09 p.m., April 27, 2013, to be exact — who can’t get donation off their minds. They are waiting. Some who are waiting now won’t make it. So far this year, 526 people have died while waiting on a transplant.
Numbers are meaningless until they reach out and touch you personally. Statistics especially are just figures — until you become one of the figures. Mike was one of those numbers.
On April 7, 2000, Mike received a kidney transplant. The family of a 13-year-old girl made the decision to donate her kidneys when she died.
Dates like that are easy to remember — birthdays, anniversaries, historical events, life-changing events, maybe the date you started a new job or made a big move. We chronicle our past by dates and events.
As glad as we are to remember April 7 — it’s like another birthday — there’s a family that grieves on that date. I hope they can feel how much they’re thought about and prayed for, and how thankful we are to them. On April 7, 2000, their lives and our lives each took different turns.
April is National Donate Life Month, a month set aside to bring awareness to the need for organ donors. What does that mean for you? Just think about it, think about what you would want if something happened to you. Think about what you would want for yourself or a loved one if a need developed for an organ.
The first step in organ donation is registering. A link to state registries at organdonor.gov is below. But just as important is telling your family that this is what you want. Just putting a notation on your driver’s license or carrying a card may not be enough. Make sure someone knows that you want your organs donated if something happened to you.
The United Network for Organ Sharing web site, http://www.unos.org, has information that will answer most of the questions someone might have about donation and transplantation.
Fifteen years ago, if someone had told me that we would be involved with organ donation, I wouldn’t have believed them. Even with Mike’s long-term diabetes, the possibility that his kidneys would fail was one of those “it won’t happen to us” scenarios.
Organ donation isn’t a pleasant topic. It’s painful to discuss if you need a transplant, because your life may depend on someone losing theirs. And it’s painful if you’re in the situation of dealing with a loved one’s death. But I hope at least you’re thinking about it now, because none of us has a road map of our future. We can mark the past by dates, but not tomorrow.
For more information or to register as a donor, visit http://www.organdonor.gov, http://www.donatelife.net, or http://www.unos.org. Those are just a few sites. To create an online tribute to honor an organ and tissue donor, go to http://www.donormemorial.org.
Statistics from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Organ Procurement and Transplant Network website http://optn.transplant.hrsa.gov.