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Raising Awareness Of The Importance Of Living Organ Donors

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Raising Awareness on the Importance of Living Organ Donors

Every year thousands of ordinary people save the life of someone in need. Ordinary citizens do extraordinary acts by running into a burning building to save a child, rushing to the scene of a car accident, or diving into a river to help a less than experienced swimmer. But there is also a less well known act of heroism that is equally heroic, and that is the decision to become a living organ donor. Living organ donors are the silent heroes whose generosity goes virtually un-noticed as a heroic act of kindness. Yet with the rising need for organs, many patients lose the battle with their disease because there are not enough organs and there are not enough people who are educated about living organ donation. Transplant patients wait months or years for an organ; what would it take for a family member, friend, or stranger to consider living organ donation?

There is currently over 92,000 patients waiting for an organ transplant. Each patient that needs an organ transplant is added to the National Transplant Waiting List. The transplant list order is determined by how severe the illness is, the patient's blood type, the organ that is needed, and how long the patient has been on the waiting list (United Network for Organ Sharing, 2006). If a patient needs a transplant, there is no telling how long they could remain on the continually growing list.

A living organ donor is a person who is alive and well who makes a decision to give up all or part of their organ to be transplanted into another person. A living donor can donate a kidney, a segment of liver, a lobe of a lung, a portion of an intestine or pancreas, bone marrow, and in rare instances, a heart (Transplant Living, 2006). The amount of living organ donors who have donated an organ has more than doubled in the last 12 years. Educating the public on living organ donors may increase those numbers yet again.

Although there is an increase in living organ donation, living organ donors only make up a small part of the transplants that take place each year. The other transplants come from cadaver donors. Cadaver donors are organs that were donated by individuals who have passed away. If a person decides to become an organ once they have passed away, they should make their wishes know in writing and also by expressing their wishes to their family. This will save on the confusion that can occur when a loved one passes on.

Although cadaver organs are appreciated by the recipient, there are some issues and that can occur with an organ from a cadaver donor. The wait time for organs from a cadaver donor is much longer than the wait time for living organ donors. There is also a better chance that the organ will not be rejected due to better organ/patient match from a living donor versus a cadaver donor. Another downfall of organs provided from cadaver donors is the time that has elapsed from harvesting the organ to transplantation into the patient. Injuries can be sustained to the organ once brain death has occurred.

With living donation, the time between harvesting the organ to transplantation is usually only minutes.

The possibility of needing a transplant can affect anyone. There are many diseases that can require a transplant: Diabetes, cancer, and heart disease are just a few. Kidney transplants from living organ donors are the most transplanted organ and are usually due to kidney failure associated greatly with diabetes. According to the National Kidney Foundation (2006), "About 30 percent of patients with Type 1 (juvenile onset) diabetes and 10 to 40 percent of those with Type 2 (adult onset) diabetes eventually will suffer from kidney failure."

There are certain types of cancer that can require a transplant in order for the patient to survive. Lung cancer, liver cancer, and Leukemia are just a few cancers can or will require a transplant. A living organ donor can increase the survival rate of each individual patient by donating a section of the liver, a lobe of the lung, or bone marrow.

With all of the benefits of living organ donors, the process a donor has to go through can be time consuming. There are many tests performed to determine whether or not a person is a candidate to be a living organ donor. Some of the tests that are performed include: blood tests, urine tests, X-rays, sonograms, arteriogram, and psychological evaluations (Transplant Living, 2006). The potential donor must be in good health to donate. All of the testing done is not only to see if the donor is a match, but it is also to make sure that the donor will be ok both before and after the transplant. The priority of the entire transplant team is the donor's health and well-being.

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