April is National Donate Life month. This doesn’t mean a lot to most people, but to our family, it does. Five years ago, my mom fell very ill with Autoimmune Hepatitis. She went to many doctors until being finally referred to the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, MN who gave her her diagnosis. Her only hope for survival was a liver transplant.
Five years ago TODAY, she received her liver from an anonymous donor. She now travels around North Dakota and Minnesota (as a volunteer for Lifesource) and speaks to high school students and adults about the importance of organ donation.
My mom never got a chance to get to know my daughter, Nora, who passed away shortly after her transplant, because she was sick for most of Nora’s short life. But, thanks to her new liver, she has been able to hold three new grandchild and watch her other grandchildren grow up.
This picture is my family (minus Annika – who knew she was already growing in my tummy?!) shortly after my mom’s transplant.
When Nora passed away, I had the difficult decision to make about organ and tissue donation for her. I received the phone call shortly after she passed away. It was not a phone call that I wanted to take, but it was one that I needed to take. I knew that an anonymous donor had saved my mom’s life, and donating Nora’s heart valves would be the best gift she could give.
Organ donation has impacted my life in so many ways. I am a donor, are you?
Here are some facts about organ and tissue donation:
1. Your Life is Always First
If you are taken to the hospital after an accident or injury, it is the hospital’s number one priority to save YOUR life. Your status as a donor is not even considered until every effort has been made to try to save your life and death has been declared.
2. Everyone Has the Potential to be an Organ and Tissue Donor
Your age or health should not prevent you from registering to be an organ or tissue donor. Most health conditions do not prevent donation and age is not a factor – the oldest organ donor was 92!
3. All Faiths Agree
All major religions in the United States support organ and tissue donation and consider it a generous act of caring.
4. There is No Cost to Your Family
If you decide to be an organ and tissue donor, your family will NOT have to pay for any medical expenses associated with the donation.
5. One Life can save up to 60
One person can save and heal up to 60 lives through organ and tissue donation!
6. Everyone is Equal
When it comes to waiting in line for an organ transplant, we are all created equal. Wealthy or famous individuals cannot and do not get bumped up higher on the national transplant waiting list. Factors such as blood type, body size, location, severity of illness and length of time on the waiting list are used to determine the best candidate for an organ.
7. Your Decision Will Be Honored
When you register to become an organ and tissue donor you are making a legal decision and, even after your death, your decision will be honored. It’s important to talk with your family to make sure they are prepared to honor your decision at the time of your death.
8. If You Don’t Make a Decision, Your Family Will
If you haven’t registered to be an organ and tissue donor your family will be asked to make a decision about donation on your behalf. Therefore, it is incredibly important that you have a conversation about donation and share your wishes with your loved ones.
9. You’ll be treated With Respect
Organ and tissue donors are heroes and are treated as such. The medical professionals who perform the recovery surgeries treat donors with the utmost respect, just like they would for any other patient. If you and your family were planning on an open casket funeral before death, these plans should not be affected by organ and tissue donation.
10. Registering is Easy
Registering to become an organ and tissue donor is simple. You can register right now, online, in Minnesota and North Dakota and by mail in South Dakota. Or you can check the box to register to be a donor when you apply for or renew your driver’s license, state identification card or learner’s permit.