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National Donate Life Month

As we end the month of April let’s take a moment and highlight National Donate Life Month and the importance of Organ, Eye and Tissue donation.

Organ donation holds a special place in my heart. I have been privileged to witness lung, heart and kidney transplant successfully change and save lives of both children and adults. I have seen it change the life not only of the patient, but of their families too. About 1 week ago I heard the story of a heart transplant recipient. Since his life saving heart transplant he has seen the birth of three of his grandchildren. I was also privileged to hear the mother of a donor speak about how she met several of the recipients of her daughter's organs and how honored she was to know her daughter continues to live on within each of them.

As science continues to develop and grow, so do the opportunities to save lives via tissue and organ donation. In 1954, the kidney was the first human organ to be transplanted successfully. On 3 December 1967, South African doctor, Dr. Christiaan (Chris) Barnard, performed the world's first human to human heart transplant at Groote Schuur Hospital, Cape Town. Liver and pancreas transplants were successfully performed by the late 1960s, while lung and intestinal organ transplant procedures were begun in the 1980s. Rejection of said organs continues to be a real concern for patients. However, with medical advances in the prevention and treatment of rejection; more successful transplants and lives saved are happening daily.

Despite the number of successful life saving and changing stories available to the public coupled with the many continuing efforts at public education - misconceptions and inaccuracies about donation persist.

It is important that prior to negating the benefits of transplant that each and everyone of us learn these facts to better understand organ, eye and tissue donation:

Fact: A national computer system and strict standards are in place to ensure ethical and fair distribution of organs. Organs are matched by blood and tissue typing, organ size, medical urgency, waiting time and geographic location.

Fact: People of all ages and medical histories should consider themselves potential donors. Your medical condition at the time of death will determine what organs and tissue can be donated.

Fact: Organs and tissue that can be donated include: heart, kidneys, lungs, pancreas, liver, intestines, corneas, skin, tendons, bone, nerve and heart valves.

Fact: Even if you have indicated your wishes on your driver’s license, state donor registry or the National Donate Life Registry, share your decision with your family so they know your wishes.

Fact: Organ donation is consistent with the beliefs of most major religions.

Fact: An open-casket funeral is possible for organ and tissue donors.

Fact: There is no cost to the donor’s family or estate for organ and tissue donation.

Fact: If you are sick or injured and admitted to the hospital, the number one priority is to save your life. Organ donation can only be considered after brain death has been declared by a physician.

Fact: Information about an organ donor is only released to the recipient if the family of the donor requests or agrees to it. Otherwise, a patient’s privacy is maintained for both donor families and recipients.

Fact: Living donation increases the existing organ supply.

Fact: Donors are needed for all races and ethnic groups. Transplant success rates increase when organs are matched between members of the same ethnic background.

As a member of a multi disciplinary transplant team I can attest to the truth behind each fact.

I can attest to the importance and need for more donors as many die waiting for their second chance.

As I stated earlier in this post I have been a part of many patients lives as they begin to contemplate what a second chance at life looks like for them. For my dialysis patients this means a life without a machine filtering their kidneys at least 3 times a week for most, but for others 7 nights a week. This means a life of traveling with their partners and enjoying the retirement they had envisaged. Or even a life of being able to work without feeling that they are suffocating when walking more than 10 minutes. Whilst transplant can be offered to anyone who may be in need of one, transplant is not for everyone. Every patient is different.

As a clinical transplant social worker I am familiar with factors that contribute to depression and anxiety secondary to the patient’s chronic disease. Often times this part of the patient's medical record is not easily identified. Mental health is often times well hidden by the expression of fear and anger. Thus, I believe all transplant patients should seek a psychotherapist that is familiar with transplant to help them in the following areas throughout their transplant journey:

  • To feel less lonely, isolated or judged

  • To gain a sense of empowerment

  • To improve coping skills and sense of adjustment

  • To speak openly and honestly about feelings

  • To speak about the real possibility of their death

  • To reduce stress, depression, anxiety and fatigue

In the event a psychotherapist is not near you many times there is a support group linked with your transplant center. I would encourage you to seek out your local social worker at said center to assist you further.

For those of you in the Houston & Greater Houston area please reach out to me for a free 15 minutes consultation on 281.940.5820 or I would be honored to accompany you and your family on your transplant journey.

How can you help - if you are not the patient? Would you like to be an organ donor?

Your organs are needed!

One organ donor can save up to eight lives. The same donor can also save or improve the lives of up to 50 people by donating tissues and eyes. More than 120,000 people in the United States are waiting for organ transplants.

If you are seeking more information about Donating Life and helping others with their second chance please visit:


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