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Baystate encourages organ donation

Jan. 16, 2013 |

SPRINGFIELD – Even though January has already begun, it's never too late to make a New Year's Resolution. This year, make it your resolution to register to be an organ donor – it's easy to do and only takes a few moments of your time. "Your decision to become a donor will make a big difference in someone's life, and as one donor you have the potential to save up to eight lives and improve the quality of life for up to 50 people needing organs or tissues," Dr. George Lipkowitz, medical director, Transplant Division, Baystate Medical Center, said. "The gift of life is truly the ultimate gift that one can give to another. You can also give this gift of life during your lifetime as a living kidney donor. If, for some reason, the recipient and their living donor are not compatible, there are national paired exchange 'swap' programs available as another option for living donation," Carol Reid RN, manager, Transplant Services, Baystate Medical Center, added. Even though hundreds of thousands of people have provided the gift of life through a commitment to organ donation, there is still a critical need for organ, tissue, marrow and blood donation, Lipkowitz noted. More than 115,000 people are on the nation's organ transplant waiting list, including some 170 at Baystate Medical Center alone. And, on average, 18 patients die each day while awaiting an organ. Making your wishes known is easy. Potential donors need only to sign a donor card or indicate their wishes on their driver's license or register online at donatelifenewengland.org. However, while a signed donor card, online registration and a driver's license with an "organ donor" designation are legal documents, organ and tissue donation should always be discussed with family members prior to any donation so they are well aware of your wishes, Lipkowitz noted. He said believing you are too old to become a donor is a common myth. Anyone, regardless of age, should consider themselves as a potential donor. "Your medical condition at the time of death will determine what organs and tissues can be donated," Lipkowitz said. While great strides have been made in educating the public about deceased donations, there are many factors contributing to a decline in available organs, especially kidneys, as a more safety-conscious public results in fewer accidental deaths. Today, more and more people are making a difference in someone's life by becoming a living kidney donor, offering a child or adult in Western Massachusetts an alternative to waiting on the national transplant list for a kidney from a deceased donor. Those altruistic donors will be donating one of their two healthy kidneys, and after the transplant surgery will resume normal, active lives. There are several benefits for a patient who receives a kidney from a living donor, including a higher success rate, a better genetic match, which lessens the risk of rejection, and the transplant surgery can be scheduled at a time that is convenient for both the donor and the recipient. Deciding whether you want to be a living kidney donor involves careful consideration. All potential donors must be in good health, older than 18 years, and before being accepted as a living donor will undergo a number of medical tests by the transplant team to make sure they are a suitable candidate. Baystate Medical Center offers the only Transplant Services in Western Massachusetts for adult and pediatric patients requiring kidney transplants. Transplant surgeons use the latest techniques, including minimally invasive surgery, so that patients experience a faster recovery and spend less time in the hospital. In addition to experienced surgeons, the Baystate Transplant Team includes nephrologists, transplant coordinators, dietitians, pharmacists, and social workers. Living or deceased donor renal transplant is offered as treatment of end-stage renal disease. To learn more about becoming a living kidney donor, call Baystate Medical Center's Transplant Services at 794-2321.

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