Wednesday, 9 July 2014

Transplant Awareness Week

I'm a bit behind with this post. Transplant awareness week was actually last week but it's all relevant information no matter what time of the year it is. This year I'm on the transplant list and have lots of information about donating and receiving organs that I'd like to share with you. I feel like general information about transplants is hard to find so here's some information about being a donor that might be interesting.

I obviously have a vested interest in you joining the donor list but of course it's okay to not want to. This isn't suppose to persuade you to donate but give you all the information on donating if you're thinking of joining the register or you already have. 

This year the big push is to talk to your family because being on the list isn't enough. Whether you've signed up or not your next of kin has the final say. If they decide they don't want your organs to leave your body there's nothing the doctors can do. If you haven't already done so, do sign up as well because your next of kin might well have changed by the time you are considered as a donor. When your done reading be sure to have a chat with any family member that's around and remember to ask them what they want too. 

Now, to all the parents out there. I hate to ask but I'm a petite person and it's likely I'll need a child or a teenage donor. So I'm asking you to take a minute to think about what you'd do with their organs if, heaven forbid, something happened to your child. In the shock and the grief your decision making isn't going to be on top form. As morbid as it is, it's good to have a think about it now. It's not a decision you want to regret, whatever way you're leaning towards. I'm not trying to persuade you to give away your child's organs, I'm just asking you to think about it. To start making a decision now rather than when you're blinded by grief because of course your protective side is going to be going into overdrive in that situation. 

I write now to all those who believe themselves too old or too unhealthy to donate. Whether your elderly, a smoker, a heavy drinker, a big eater, a heart-attack, stroke or cancer survivor, you could still save multiple lives. People as old as 80 have successfully donated even such vital organs as hearts. On the transplant consent form you are asked if you will accept organs from over 60s so it's far from a rare occurrence. Smokers too are on the consent form. In fact 50% of donors are smokers. Whatever kind of lifestyle you have they will always check your organs. Even though gay people can't give blood (is that still true?) you can still become a donor. I'm afraid to say that it is actually on the consent form but it's not as bad as you think. It's under the bracket of "high risk lifestyles", which also includes intravenous drug users and anyone who has a higher than average risk of catching HIV. Seriously, if a heroin addict can donate an organ I'm sure there's a chance you can. It's highly unlikely that you will have managed to destroy all of your organs by your lifestyle or past illnesses. Your ability to donate depends far more on the circumstances of your death than your body's health before you died. Even if they manage to get just a kidney from you that's still a life saved. And remember they're after your eyes, blood and tissue too, which could save a life or at least dramatically improve lives. If all else fails science might want your organs for research. You never know, they might start a study into the exact disease you die of and your organ might bring about a cure. It's always worth signing up and talking to your next of kin. If Keith Richards is somehow still alive with all his organs working at least enough to keep him going then anything is possible! My grandfather was told he had 5 days to live. That was about 8 months ago and he's still going. So you never know what's going on inside!

They do only use nice healthy organs for transplants but nice healthy organs aren't only found in nice healthy people. So don't rule yourself out. 

As a side note here are some extra little assurances: your body will look the same whether you've donated or not so if you have your heart set on an open coffin funeral or your religion dictates a certain type of funeral then donating doesn't mean you can't have that. Likewise if it's important to a family member to see your body before you're buried then donating doesn't mean that can't happen either. If you're American, donating doesn't mean you're family will have any extra medical bills. I don't know if anyone thinks this but being a donor definitely doesn't mean doctors will make any less effort to save your life and doesn't mean you have any less right to stay in a coma for as long as it takes for someone to decide it's the right time to turn you off. 

I'm sorry this post is rather morbid but it's important for you to know these things and to talk about organ donation. So please make sure you do! I think it's important for people to know that anyone can donate. I think the excuse, "no one would want my organs" gets thrown around a lot. Please, let the doctors decide. 

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