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Need for organ donors reaching critical levels

January 9, 2011
SPRINGFIELD — For those who haven’t made any New Year’s Resolutions yet, here’s an easy one to make and keep in 2012.
This year, make a resolution to become an organ donor — it’s easy to do and only takes a few moments.
“Your decision to become a donor will make a big difference in someone’s life, and as one donor you can help more than 50 people needing organs or tissues,” Dr. George Lipkowitz, medical director, Transplant Division, Baystate Medical Center, said.
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 112,000 people are on the nation’s organ transplant waiting list. And, on average, 18 patients die each day while awaiting an organ.
“At Baystate Medical Center alone, we have a list of more than 150 patients waiting for a new kidney,” Lipkowitz said.
Making your wishes known is easy, Lipkowitz noted. Potential donors need only to sign a donor card or indicate their wishes on their driver’s license or register online Donate Life’s website at www.donatelifenewengland.org/register.
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.
“That is why it is very important that you make your wishes known in advance to your family about your desire to donate your organs,” Lipkowitz said.
Lipkowitz noted believing you are too old to become a donor is a common myth. He said 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,” he said.
The good news to report is that in October 2011, Donate Life America announced a significant milestone had been achieved with 100 million organ, eye and tissue donors being registered in the United States. On average, nearly eight million people join a state donor registry each year, with a majority (97 percent) joining through state departments of motor vehicles.
However, because the number of transplant patients continues to rise, there is still a critical need for organ, tissue, marrow and blood donation. As a result, a new national goal has been set to register 20 million additional donors by the end of 2012.
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 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. Living kidney donors must be 18 years of age or older and have a blood type that is compatible with that of the recipient.
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.
To learn more about organ and tissue donation, contact LifeChoice Donor Services at (800) 874-5215.
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