February 14 is National Organ Donation Day. The day is very important to people around the globe and here is why.
Today, there are 115,000 people sitting on a waitlist.
They’re not waiting for a fancy car or a special class registration or a sought after makeup palette. What they’re waiting on is, simply put, a chance at life.
With the number of people we have in our population today, no one should be on a waitlist for organ donation. Every second that ticks by, people with failing hearts, kidneys, livers, and other vital organs inch closer to total organ failure.
But it doesn’t have to be that way.
That’s where National Organ Donor Day comes in. Every year, National Organ Donor Day encourages people from all walks of life and medical histories to sign up for organ donation.
So, why exactly is Organ Donation Day so important? Keep reading to find out more.
The History of National Organ Donation Day
In 1998, the United States Department of Health and Human Services, along with Saturn Corporation and the United Auto Workers, teamed up to create the first ever National Organ Donor Day.
Their goal was simple: they wanted to increase the number of organ donors in the United States to decrease the growing number of people on the donor waiting list.
How’d they do it? On the first National Organ Donation day, Saturn retailers all across the nation opened their doors for community donor drives.
Over the years, Saturn helped collect over 250,000 units of blood while also encouraging people to donate marrow, tissues, and organs.
Saturn closed its doors in 2010, but it leaves behind a legacy that extends way beyond just the cars it put on the road. Saturn, and the community it supported, changed the lives of thousands of people through these yearly donation drives.
But why is National Organ Donor Day so important?
One Donor Can Change 75 Lives
The organs of one person can save up to eight lives. If you’re healthy, you have kidneys, a liver, lungs, a heart, a pancreas, and intestines that medical professionals can give to people with defects and other illnesses.
But organs aren’t the only thing you can donate. Did you know your corneas can also go to two different people in need?
Your tissue can also go towards helping people. Medical professionals can also harvest your blood and bone marrow to help up to 75 people get life-altering treatments that they need.
Anyone Can Be a Donor
It used to be that people who have medical issues couldn’t be considered for organ donation. But thanks to advances in medical science, more people are able to donate now than ever before.
It doesn’t matter how old you are, where you live, or what your medical history is.
Also, you don’t even have to wait until you’ve passed on to donate some of your vital organs.
Kidneys, for example, are one of the things you can donate as a living donor.
It Helps with the Healing Process
The first thing many people think about when they consider donating their organs is what their family will think. For the more old fashioned, it may seem unnatural to donate a part of yourself. There are also some who have a religious issue with the practice.
However, donating your organs can actually help your family with the healing process after you pass away. Knowing that you and your body are still doing good in the world even after you’ve passed on can soften the blow.
Being able to hug the person who has the transplanted heart of your loved one long after they’re gone is an experience that can’t be duplicated.
It’s Your Chance to Help Others
In the world we live in today, it seems much more easy or fashionable to knock someone down instead of helping them up. Luckily, as Mr. Rogers taught us, there are helpers everywhere.
You can be one of these helpers for people in need. And donating an organ isn’t like any other form of helping. It’s giving someone the gift of life in the most literal way possible.
Every Second Counts
Organ Donation Day is also important because it expresses the urgency involved in the process of organ donation.
Every single second counts, whether you’re the one who is on the waitlist or you’re the one with viable organs waiting for a donation.
On every team of medical professionals involved in the organ donation process, there are over 10 people who are skilled beyond measure. As soon as a family makes the decision to allow their loved one’s organs to go to someone in need, the process begins.
But the time it takes for families to make that decision can sometimes mean the difference between organs that are viable and organs that aren’t.
If you take that decision and make it your own, you give your organs a greater chance of making it to where they need to go before the time runs out and they become nonviable.
National Organ Donation Day reminds people of that opportunity and gives them the chance to make the choice for themselves.
The Waitlist Is Long
The waitlist for organ and tissue donation currently sits at over 115,000 people. That number is the total number for all donations needed. However, the individual numbers are just as daunting.
There are currently 3,763 people waiting for a heart, 1,377 people waiting for a lung, and over 13,000 people waiting for a liver. Out of all the people on the list, those who are in need of a kidney have the longest wait with over 94,000 people before them.
We need to find the people who are willing to give the gift of life and get them registered as soon as possible so that everyone has a chance at a longer, healthier life.
The Impact is Life-Changing
Guest excerpt by Julie Pepper Lim, Marketing & Communications Coordinator at Meritage Medical Network.
When people hear February 14th, they may think first about Valentine’s Day. However, it’s important to remember that it’s also National Donor Day, so even if you’re not in love, you can think about giving your heart to someone—someone who dearly needs it—because National Donor Day is a time to focus on all types of giving: organ, eye, tissue, blood, platelets, and marrow. It’s a time to donate your time or think about how a future donation might save lives. It’s also a time to recognize people who have given the gift of donation, have received a donation, or are anxiously awaiting one.
Here’s a story about one individual’s experience of waiting for not one, but two heart transplants:
Carlee was a two-time heart recipient. She had her first heart transplant when she was one and a half because she had an enlarged heart that was interfering with her breathing by pressing up against her lungs. She was placed on the waiting list and was able to receive a heart. As she grew, she developed a love for dance, joined the drill team, played tennis and baseball. After years of doing so well, Carlee’s heart began to fail and her arteries began to close. Again, at age 13 she was placed on the waiting list. She continued to get weaker and needed supervision wherever she went in case her heart failed. And then she got the call. Finding a second matching heart felt like a dream for Carlee. She worked hard to regain her strength and was eventually able to get back to dancing. Carlee realized she had a unique experience which made her understand how important life is. Even though she was so young, she recognized that not everyone understands what it means to get a second chance at life. At 15, she and her friends are all starting to drive. Carlee is going to make sure that she and her friends register to be organ donors so they can save lives, too.
For every story like Carlee’s, there are many more people who were not able to receive an organ in time. National Donor Day is also a day to recognize those stories.
Let’s think of this February 14th as a day of giving and spreading love and keeping it going through organ, eye, tissue, blood, platelets and marrow donations. It’s funny to think that while we’re only born with one heart, that heart could last more than one lifetime.
Register to be an Organ Donor on National Organ Donor Day
If organ donation is something you would consider as an option for your body after you’re gone, there’s no reason not to register to be an organ donor as soon as possible. It increases the likelihood that your organs will be viable when they make it to the person in need and, best of all, it costs you nothing and it’s easy to do.
You’re not going to use the organs when you’re gone. Consider giving them to someone who needs them this National Organ Donation Day.
If you’re interested in learning more about other important medical days of the year, visit our post about World AIDS Day next!