Organ donation is a gift that creates new lives

Published 7:53 pm Saturday, April 16, 2011

Across the country, more than 110,000 people are waiting for organ transplants. In Virginia, there are 2,900.

Becoming an organ, eye and tissue donor is one way that anybody can help those waiting for a lifesaving transplant.

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April is National Donate Life Month and intended to celebrate those organ donors and transplant recipients, as well as spread awareness of the pressing need.

Organ donation is the process of removing organs, eyes and tissue from a deceased person and transplanting them to another person in order to save his or her life or vastly improved it, according to the Donate Life Virginia website.

With the organs that can be transplanted — two kidneys, the heart, two lungs, the pancreas, the small intestine and the liver, which can be divided — becoming an organ donor can save nine lives, said Andrew Mullins, director of hospital development and community education at LifeNet Health, a Virginia Beach-based organ procurement organization.

Kidneys are the most common organs transplanted and also are the most-needed organ.

Of the 110,000 Americans waiting for transplants, 84,000 are waiting for kidneys.

Mullins said there is a lot of misinformation about organ donation. The biggest fallacy is that your organ donor status will cause doctors to not try as hard to save your life in an emergency, in order to get your organs.

“That’s an absolute misconception,” he said.

Physicians will do everything in their power to save your life, regardless of your status as an organ donor, Mullins said. By law, the doctors involved in saving your life are not the same doctors involved in the organ donation.

Some people worry whether their age, certain medical conditions or past behaviors preclude them from being organ donors.

However, Mullins said everyone is asked to opt to be a donor, and at the time of death, a thorough review is completed to decide whether the organs can be transplanted.

LifeNet Health encourages everyone to become an organ donor, he said, because there are so many people waiting for transplants.

“There’s a very critical need,” he said. “Organ donation is the right thing to do.”

Transplant recipients go on to live healthy, productive lives that wouldn’t have been possible without organ donors, Mullins said.

One LifeNet volunteer who is the recipient of a double-lung transplant has been living with his transplants for five years and runs in marathons.

Mullins said he recommends people who are on the fence about becoming an organ donor should think about the people who are on the waiting lists for transplants.

“It’s a selfless gift,” Mullins said. “It’s something we don’t need when we die.”

One of the easiest ways to become an organ donor is through the Department of Motor Vehicles. All it takes to be added to the organ donation registry in Virginia is checking “yes” on a DMV form.

Mullins said 98 percent of the Virginians who decide to become donors chose to do so at the DMV.

Virginians can also register to be an organ donor on the state’s online donor registry at

For more information on organ donation, visit or