Every time we pick turn on the tv, open a magazine, listen to the radio, or talk to other people we are constantly reminded of many situations where other people are suffering from debilitating disease such as cancer or kidney failure or has been the victim of an accident such as a major interstate pileup. The end result can at times be influenced by the willingness of others to give of themselves in the most personal ways. The demand for marrow, blood, plasma, and organs are much higher than the supply. According to US law or simply for medical reasons, some people are prohibited from giving. I can’t donate blood because I have a blood disorder but haven’t been told no for organ donation. We won’t get into the politics of some of the other restricted groups (that could be an entirely different and very long debate), but today’s focus is on why it’s important to give and how you can do so.
According to the U.S. Government Information on Organ and Tissue Donation and Transplantation website 110,586 people are waiting for an organ, 18 people will die each day waiting for an organ, and 1 organ donor can save up to 8 lives. Approximately 2.4M people die from all causes in the United States annually. While not all of these 2.4M are eligible to donate their organs and tissues, many are but choose not to. Living donations are also possible for some organs, but few choose that route either. Some choose not to donate for religious reasons, some choose not to because of fear, and others actually do choose to donate but their families disagree with their choice and will not agree when the decision needs to be made or the family isn’t even aware of the choice.
Before Ellie passed away, she was a regular blood donor. When Ellie passed away this past September, she had 1) chosen to be an organ donor, 2) made sure the choice was indicated on her drivers license, and 3) made sure the family was well aware of her decision and would support that decision. The family actual is who sits down with really amazing nurses and doctors to make the actual decisions about what the family agrees to be donated. Even after that there are decisions the medical establishment needs to make (are these organs good for donation, is there someone that needs them) but they keep you up to speed with every decision and every update. It was comforting to know what was going on. Ellie was able to help six other people continue their lives. It’s what she would have wanted.
In the end though, it’s a personal decision. I implore you to check out organdonor.gov to find out more about organ and tissue donation and check out the American Red Cross to find out more about blood and plasma donation. Check out the National Marrow Donor Program to find out more about marrow donation. Once you’ve made a decision to donate your organs (or which of your organs/tissues you are willing to donate), make sure your government ID (drivers license, ID card) says so. Register in your state to be a donor. Make sure to let everyone who might be making decisions for you know and talk to them about your choice. Get a regular schedule going for blood donations. Volunteer to work at blood drives in your area or make donations to the American Red Cross or other blood donation centers to support the work they do.
Want another way to help save someone’s life that doesn’t have to do with giving blood, plasma, or organs? Get certified in CPR through the American Red Cross or American Heart Association, certified in the use of AEDs, or train to be a first responder. Learn how to give the heimlich manuever properly. Learn how to do basic first aid and wilderness first aid. Become a lifeguard. Volunteer for mass casualty mock events or mock wilderness rescues. There are many many ways to get involved in saving lives – find your way!
Check out these websites and social media accounts for info about donations, volunteering, or training:
Don’t just consider saving someone else’s life – what about your own? Do you get regular checkups? Do you go to the doctor when you feel something is wrong? Do you get screening tests recommended for your gender and age such as a colonoscopy, prostate exam, healthy woman exam, mammogram, etc? If you don’t have a doctor, is there a clinic nearby where you might be able to be seen nearby? Are you up to date on your immunizations? Have you been tested in the last 3-6 months for HIV? If you have not even the slightest clue what any of this means, get in touch with your local health department or a clinic in your town (even the one at a drugstore) to ask them to help point you in the right direction. You can go to this HRSA website to find a health center to receive affordable care anywhere in the US even if you don’t have health insurance.
If you have insurance and a regular provider but haven’t done any of these things, make an appointment today and ask your doctor everything. Have you seen a dentist or dental hygienist in the last year? If not, find a low cost clinic (if near a university try there) or a recommended dentist via friends and make an appointment for a cleaning. Your first time there they will check your teeth thoroughly and let you know if you need more care. We owe it to ourselves to take good care of ourselves.
You can also use your phone to protect you in case of emergency. Using apps such as CloseCall and RxmindMe, you can easily keep a list of medicines you are taking in your phone (along with dosages and prescribers) and create an emergency number homescreen in case something happens to you and a good samaritan checks your phone for info. This shows up even if you lock your phone. You can also create a note on your phone labeled ICE (in case of emergency) or add a contact phone number to your phone labeled ICE which will go to someone that knows as much about you as possible. Let people know where to find such information just in case it needs to be accessed and you aren’t going to be the one doing it.
What do you do to take care of yourself and what do you plan to do to help others?
If you feel obligated, help us continue to honor Ellie’s memory and donate to the American Heart Association/American Stroke Association in her name.