Register as a donor today

Published 10:31 pm Monday, August 24, 2009

Organ donation is a simple decision to make, but it’s one that can be fraught with positive consequences down the road.

Jason Ftizgerald and Mary Smith learned that lesson in a very personal way this year, after Fitzgerald readily agreed to donate a kidney to his friend and “second mother.” His gift was not just the gift of a kidney — it was truly the gift of life for Smith, who had just begun dialysis treatments and was looking at a five- to seven-year wait for a donor organ. Since there are so many kidney patients who need transplanted organs and so few donor organs available, many of those patients, she knew, die waiting for their names to come up on that list.

With a generous friend willing to part with both a kidney and the weeks of recovery time following the surgery, Smith was able to avoid that wait and its attendant uncertainty. It was an incredible act of friendship and compassion, and it changed the lives of both the giver and the recipient.

Email newsletter signup

For most folks on transplant lists across the nation, things don’t turn out as well. Doctors can do amazing things for people who need new kidneys, new livers, new hearts and even new eyes, but they can’t do much of anything without the actual organs to transplant. The demand is there, but the supply is seriously lacking.

According to the Scientific Registry of Transplant Recipients, for example, there were more than 16,000 people on the waiting list for livers in 2008 and only 6,000 or so liver transplants. More than 2,000 people died while awaiting a transplant. The difference between the number of kidneys transplanted and the number of people awaiting kidney transplants is huge — and growing at an increasing rate.

The statistics are especially depressing considering the improving survival rates that patients have following transplantation procedures. What’s missing is only a willingness on the part of Americans to agree to donate their organs after death.

It’s been said before, but it bears saying again. Organ and tissue donors can save the lives of seven people, restore sight to two people and help many others in the process. Take a moment today to register your desire to be an organ donor, and let your family know of your wishes. Just think how much it would mean to them if someone’s donated organs saved your own life.