Give life, become an organ donor

Do you know someone who has received a liver, a heart or, maybe, a cornea implant?

Chances are you do, as organ donations in the United States are continuing to grow, and more than 35,000 were performed during the past year. However, thousands and thousands more await transplants — more than 115,000 nationally. Those waiting for transplants in our region include 8,000 in Pennsylvania, 2,900 in Ohio and approximately 500 in West Virginia.

This is National Donate Life Month, and it’s important to consider registering as an organ donor.

Many of your friends and neighbors already are. In Jefferson County, it is reported that 49.9 percent of residents are registered, while the total for Harrison County stands at 51.1 percent. The number in Hancock County is lower, coming in at 36.4 percent.

Those number come from Lifeline of Ohio, an independent nonprofit organ procurement organization that services Central and Southeast Ohio as well Hancock and Wood counties in West Virginia. Those numbers are not far from Ohio’s overall total of 59.3 percent.

Those numbers are not higher, officials believe, because of the many myths that surround organ and tissue donation.

One myth is potential donors don’t believe they’ll be able to have an open-casket funeral if they donate, but the fact is donors are treated with dignity and respect upon death and may have an open casket because general outward appearance is unchanged.

Also, potential donors should realize there is no cost to them or donor families. All costs are paid for by the organ procurement organization.

Apprehensive donors should know that all major religions support organ and tissue donations as a humanitarian and charitable act. And finally, no one is too old to donate. There’s no age limit, and everyone from newborns to senior citizens has shared the gift of life.

The deciding factor when it comes to donating a heart, lungs, kidneys, liver, pancreas or corneas, as well as bone, fascia, skin, veins or heart valves is a person’s overall physical condition, and anyone under age 18 must have the consent of a parent or guardian.

Potential donors should know that a single donor potentially can save the lives of eight people and enhance the lives of up to 50 or more by donating organs and tissue.

According to United Network for Organ Sharing, 2018 was a record-breaking year for transplants, with more than 36,500 performed. There were 10,700 transplants from deceased donors last year — the eighth-consecutive record-breaking year — and 6,900 living donor transplants. While those numbers are impressive, the sad reality is that more than 6,500 candidates in 2017 died while on the waiting list or within 30 days of leaving the list.

Becoming an organ and tissue donor is simple. Ohioans can declare their wish by indicating their intentions in the Ohio Donor Registry when renewing their driver’s license or by completing a donor registry enrollment form available online at www.lifelineofohio.org. West Virginians can register the same way when they receive or renew their driver’s licenses at the Department of Motor Vehicles. Pennsylvania residents can register by visiting donatelifepa.org.

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