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Help give the gift of life

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 continue to grow, with at least 39,035 performed during the past year. However, thousands and thousands more await transplants — more than 100,000 nationally, and 7,027 in Pennsylvania, 3,265 in Ohio and 119 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. According to the Health Resources and Service Administration, there are 156 million people older than 18 registered as organ donors in the United States. That represents 60 percent of all adults.

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 can 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 the age of 18 must have the consent of a parent or guardian.

Potential donors should know that a single donor can save the lives of eight people and enhance the lives of more than 100.

According to United Network for Organ Sharing, 2020 was a record-breaking year for transplants, with 39,719 performed. There were 12,587 transplants from deceased donors last year — the 10th-consecutive record-breaking year — and 5,725 living donor transplantsm a decrease of 22.6 perent from the record of 7,397 set in 2019.

While those numbers are impressive, the sad reality is that more than 107,000 men, women and children were on the national transplant waiting list as of February, and 17 people will die each day while waiting for an organ transplant, according to the HRSA. While another person is added to the transplant waiting list every nine minutes, only three people in 1,000 die in a way that allows for organ donation.

Becoming an organ and tissue donor is simple. The easiest way to make your intentions clear is when you renew your driver’s license, a choice which is offered in Ohio, West Virginia and Pennsylvania.

If you are not already registered as an organ donor, we hope you will at least consider that option, and join the ranks of those who help to give the gift of life.

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