How to start saving lives today – MidAmerica Transplant Services tells you how

April 11, 2012

Editor’s note: This is the first in a seven part series on the donation process as submitted by Justin Phelps, a communications coordinator at Mid-America Transplant Services (MTS). He will guest blog periodically in 2012 to give our readers a better understanding of MTS and the services it provides. He may be reached at jphelps@mts-stl.org.

You can help the 1,300 St. Louisans in need of a lifesaving transplant. Here’s how:

The organ and tissue donation process starts with you, and it can start today. Joining the donor registry and telling your family your wishes to be an organ and tissue donor is the most important step. Without consent, the ability to donate may be lost if your family decides after your death not to donate your organs.

The donor registry is a volunteer and confidential list of individuals who have decided to give the gift of life. Often individuals rule themselves out of donation. “No one would want my organs,” they tell our staff, followed by a reason like age, weight, or a vice. There are 113,000 people nationwide waiting for organs. More than 1,300 of those are in St. Louis alone.

That’s 1,300 people in St. Louis who need a lifesaving organ, who anxiously await the gift of life. Even if only one of your organs is healthy enough for transplant, that’s one life you saved. On average, though, each organ donor at MTS saved more than three lives each last year. Additionally, tissue donors enhance thousands of lives each year.

By the way, Donate Life New England(DNLE) put together a great video encouraging people of all ages to register. DLNE is a sister state team to Donate LifeMissouri and Donate LifeIllinois, both of which are supported by MTS through personnel resources. These state teams are made up of state organ procurement organizations (OPOs) and other agencies associated with organ and tissue donation. Each state team is under the Donate LifeAmerica umbrella.

Consider these numbers: About 25,000 deaths are reported each year in MTS’s service area. Because organ donation is possible only in rare circumstances, 188 were eligible for donation last year. Of those eligible, 34 families decided not to donate. That means MTS coordinated the donation process for 156 organ donors last year.  About 150 donors for about 1,300 people needing lifesaving organs. You can help bridge the gap by registering online.

The criteria for becoming a tissue donor are not as stringent as those for becoming an organ donor. The MTS area has almost 5,000 people eligible for tissue donation annually, but only about 1,100 become donors. These 1,100 heroes enhance the lives of thousands of people.

For every donation, MTS meets the donor families’ needs of compassion and information, and acts as a responsible steward of their loved one’s gift of life by coordinating the placement of the donated organs and tissue to the community for those in need.

At the time of your death, a family support specialist from MTS will talk with your family about organ and tissue donation. We work with doctors and nurses to determine which organs and tissues can be donated. This testing will include checking the health and viability of organs and tissue.

As mentioned earlier, organ donation is possible only in rare circumstances. The opportunity to recover organs is dependent on the manner of the individual’s death, a situation known as brain death which is extremely rare. Unfortunately, only about one percent of the population will even have their organs tested because of this requirement. This is why registering is so important to those 1,300 St. Louisans waiting for a live-saving organ.

You can also help spread awareness about the gift of life during April, which is National Donate Life Month. Donate LifeAmerica has created events for its “20 Million in 2012” campaign, which aims to register 20 million people as organ donors in 2012.

Among those projects is National Blue and Green Day on April 20. Wear blue and/or green on this date, tell people why and post to the Donate Life Missouri Facebook page. You can set up a registry drive at your church or with your employer. MTS provides an event kit to get you started. And you can follow Donate Life America on Facebook and share with your friends their 365 Stories of Hope.

With so many opportunities and so many patients waiting for a lifesaving transplant, we hope you’ll join us in sharing the message of organ and tissue donation.

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Category: Organ donation, Transplant

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