Someone you know may need an organ transplant.
Organ transplantation is reserved for patients whose disease is irreversible, meaning that they need a transplant in order to survive.
Over 112,000 people are currently waiting for an organ transplant, according to the United Network for Organ Sharing (UNOS). Since the first successful organ transplants were performed in the 1960s, more than 500,000 people have received transplants in the United States, including corneas, heart, lungs, liver, kidneys, pancreas, intestines and bone marrow. Organ donations can come from people who are deceased, or for some types of organs, from living donors. Whether the donation is a living donor or deceased, the need for organs for transplantation far outweighs the available donor organs.
CCH Pre-anesthesia Testing Coordinator Donna Torres, Surgical Services, knows the stress and anxiety families face who are waiting for a lifesaving organ donation. Her husband of 35 years, Bryen was recently diagnosed with a severe liver disease, with a liver transplant listed as the only cure. Bryen could benefit most from a living donor, and they are still searching for one.
But organ transplant is not a first-come, first served process. Many factors enter into how soon someone may receive a transplant, like the general health of the patient, the type of organ they need and the availability of donor organs. Each situation is unique, but only 50% of those on a donor waiting list receive an organ in less than five years.
Donna and her family members were tested as possible donors, but so far none are compatible to donate to Bryen. She encourages everyone to register as an organ donor, where increased awareness has grown the registry to over 100 million people in 2011. Donor registration isn't binding, and it's always a good idea to discuss your wishes with your family.
Living donation offers another opportunity for transplant candidates. Of the 28,000 organ transplants performed in the United States in 2010, more than 6,500 were living donor transplants. Parents, children, husbands, wives, friends, co-workers, even total strangers can be living donor candidates, and it can be an unparalleled opportunity to give someone a second chance at life. There are no medical expenses for the donor or their family to donate, but donors may have additional expenses like lost wages for time off work during recovery and travel expenses.
Local massage therapist Rachel Nava donated a kidney to her adoptive father Samuel Two Bulls in 2004. Her donation prolonged his life by seven years, and even more important, gave him a much better quality of life than before the transplant.
Mr. Two Bull's biological children were not candidates for donation, and Rachel knew in her heart that she was a match, even before the test results came back. There are risks associated with living donation, and anyone who is considering becoming a living donor should talk to others who have had this experience. Rachel spent time reading and educating herself on what to expect before her surgery. Her recovery was quick, and she's had no negative health consequences in the years since the donation.
"It was a good feeling to do something so tangible for someone else," said Rachel. "I never had any apprehension after I made the decision to donate, I was ready."
To learn more about living organ donation, visit www.transplantliving.org, or the UNOS member directory page at