Flowers, Chocolates, and Organ Donation – Are You Subscribed? Harvard Health Blog


Chocolates and flowers are great gifts for Valentine’s Day. But what if the gifts we give this year really change your life? A gift that saves a person’s life or frees him from dialysis?

You can do that. For people who need to donate organs, tissues, or blood, a donor can give them a gift that exceeds the value of anything you can buy. This is why February 14th isn’t just Valentine’s Day – it is, too National Donor DayThis is a time when health organizations nationwide sponsor blood drives and participate in organ and tissue donations. Read whether you have ever wondered what you can donate, have reservations about donating your organs or tissues after death, or have concerns about the risks of becoming a living donor.

The tremendous impact of donating an organ, tissue or cell

It is difficult to overestimate the impact that donors can have on the lives of the people whose organs you donate. Imagine that you are suffering from kidney failure that requires dialysis 12 hours or more every week just to survive. Even with this, you know you can still die early. Or, if the liver is failing, you may experience severe nausea, itching, and confusion. Death may be only weeks or months away. For those with cancer who need a bone marrow transplant, or someone who has lost their sight due to corneal disease, finding a donor may be the only good option.

Donating organs or tissues can reverse these problems, giving recipients a chance at a long life, an improved quality of life, or both. However, the number of people who need to donate an organ far exceeds the number of compatible donors: about 90% of people in the United States support organ donation, but only 60% participate. appreciate 109,000 women, men and children await an organ transplant in the United States. About 6,000 die every year, and they are still waiting.

What can be donated?

The list of ways in which a donor can help a person in need has grown tremendously in recent years. Some organs, tissues or cells can be donated while you are alive; Other donations are only possible after death. One donor can help up to 75 people!

Here is a list of the most common organs, tissues, and cells that are donated.

After death, people can donate

  • Bones, cartilage, and tendons
  • Corneas
  • Face and hands (although not common, they are the latest additions to this list)
  • Kidneys
  • Liver
  • lungs
  • Heart and heart valves
  • Intestine
  • Pancreas
  • skin
  • Veins.

May include live donations

  • Birth tissue, such as the placenta, umbilical cord, and amniotic fluid, which can be used to help heal skin wounds or ulcers and prevent infection
  • Blood cells, serum, or bone marrow
  • College
  • Part of the lung
  • Part of the intestine, liver, or pancreas.

To learn more about the different types of organ donation, visit // Donate America’s Life.

Becoming a Donor After Death: Questions and Misconceptions

Misconceptions about becoming an organ donor are common, and they limit the number of people willing to sign up. For example, many people mistakenly believe

  • Doctors won’t work hard to save your life if it is known that you are an organ donor, or worse yet, doctors will harvest the organs before death.
  • Their religion prohibits organ donation
  • You cannot have an open funeral casket if you donate your organs.

None of this is true, and no one should discourage you from becoming an organ donor. Forensic medical professionals always keep the patient’s interests front and center. Care will never be compromised by a person’s choices about organ donation. Most major religions allow and support organ donation. If organ donation occurs after death, the dressed body will not show any outward signs of organ donation, so an open casket funeral is an option for organ donors.

The experience of being a living donor

If you donate blood, there is little or no risk. Other donations come with real risks. Kidney donation surgery comes with a significant risk of complications, anesthetic reactions, and significant recovery time. It is not easy to give a kidney, a portion of a lung, or a liver.

Bone marrow donation requires a minimal surgical procedure. If general anesthesia is used, there is a chance of a reaction to the anesthetic. Since the bone marrow is removed through needles inserted into the back of the pelvic bones on each side, back or hip pain is common. This can be controlled with pain relievers. The body quickly replaces the bone marrow that was removed, so long-term problems are not expected.

Stem cells are found in the bone marrow. They also appear in small numbers in blood and can be donated through a process similar to blood donation. This takes about seven or eight hours. Filgrastim, a drug that increases stem cell production, is given a number of days in advance. It can cause side effects, such as flu symptoms, bone pain, and fatigue, but it tends to go away soon after the procedure.

The overwhelming number of living organ donation occurs without complications, and donors usually feel positive about the experience.

Who can donate?

A person can be an organ, tissue, or blood cell donor. The exceptions include anyone with active cancer, widespread infection, or unhealthy organs.

What about age? By itself, your age does not prevent you from donating an organ. In 2019, approx A third of the organ donors were over the age of 50. People in their 90s donated their organs after their death and saved lives. However, bone marrow transplants may fail more often when the donor is older, so bone marrow donations by people over the age of 55 or 60 are usually avoided.

Finding a good match: immunocompatibility

For many transplants, the best results occur when there is an immune compatibility between the donor and the recipient. Compatibility depends greatly on the HLA type, which lays down genetically specific proteins on the surface of most cells. These proteins help the immune system to identify which cells qualify as alien or autologous. Foreign cells trigger an immune attack; The cells should not be identified as self.

HLA typing can be done by blood test or cheek swab. Close relatives tend to have the best HLA matches, but strangers might be a good fit too.

The lack of donors among people with certain types of human leukocyte antigens makes finding a match more difficult. Health disparities already exist, such as higher rates of kidney disease between Black Americans And the Color communities, It might get worse due to Decreased numbers of donors From these communities, an injustice driven in part by a lack of trust in the medical system.

The bottom line

As National Donor Day approaches, think about the impact you could have by becoming a donor, both during your life and after death. In the United States, you must choose to be a donor, unlike in some countries where everyone is considered an organ donor unless they specifically choose to withdraw. Research He notes that a withdrawal approach could significantly increase organ donation rates in this country, but it appears that there is currently no movement in this direction.

I hope that organ donation in the United States and around the world will increase over time. While you can still use chocolates for Valentine’s Day, maybe this year you can also just go bigger and become a donor. Let me know what to choose – and why.

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