National Donate Life Month

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In honor of April being National Donate Life Month, here are some facts about organ donation:

According to WomensHealth.gov the number of people needing a transplant continues to rise faster than the number of donors. About 4,100 transplant candidates are added to the national waiting list each month. Each day, about 77 people receive organ transplants. However, about 18 people die each day waiting for transplants that can’t take place because of the shortage of donated organs.

There are now more than 105,000 people on the waiting list for solid organ transplants.

Here are some facts from OrgandDonor.gov (interspersed with my own research and thoughts):

Fact: Anyone, regardless of age or medical history, can sign up to be a donor. The transplant team will determine at an individual’s time of death whether donation is possible.

*Number of MEN on the National Transplant Waiting List 2/28/11: 70, 665

*Number of WOMEN on the National Transplant Waiting List 2/28/11: 48, 935

Fact: Most major religions in the United States support organ donation and consider donation as the final act of love and generosity toward others.

*Number of people on the National Transplant Waiting List 2/28/11 in Region 5 (Arizona, California, Nevada, New Mexico, Utah): 25,121

* Number of people on the National Transplant Waiting List 2/28/11 in Region 6 (Alaska, Hawaii, Idaho, Montana, Oregon, Washington): 2,990

In other words, you have a much better chance of receiving a transplant in the lowest region (6) than in the highest (5). Often folks needing transplants travel from their homes to lesser-populated regions for years at a time.

Fact: If you are sick or injured and admitted to a hospital, the number one priority is to save your life.

Fact: When matching donor organs to recipients, the computerized matching system considers issues such as the severity of illness, blood type, time spent waiting, other important medical information, and geographic location. The recipient’s financial or celebrity status or race does not figure in.

*Number of WHITE on the National Transplant Waiting List 2/28/11: 54, 318

*Number of BLACK on the National Transplant Waiting List 2/28/11: 34, 881

*Number of HISPANIC on the National Transplant Waiting List 2/28/11: 20,724

*Number of WHITE on the National Transplant Waiting LIVERS: 11,670

*Number of BLACK on the National Transplant Waiting LIVERS: 1,224

*Number of HISPANIC on the National Transplant Waiting LIVERS: 2,927

Fact: An open casket funeral is usually possible for organ, eye, and tissue donors. Through the entire donation process, the body is treated with care, respect, and dignity.

*Hate to put it like this but… by casket time, all the gushy stuff has pretty much been sucked out, including from your hallow organs, and you are completely filled with formaldehyde; unless you had an autopsy, and then your organs will still be intact inside, in ziplock bags. Yup. You might as well have donated them and saved the lives of up to eight other people.

Fact: There is no cost to donors or their families for organ or tissue donation.

*But know this, organ donors: you do need to tell your families of your wishes to donate your organs. Express to them simply and directly. You do not want recently-converted-to-the-brotherhood-of-anti-everything Uncle Ted getting in your bereft and vulnerable parents ear and anti-ing them on the idea.

Fact: Every state provides access to a donor registry where its residents can indicate their donation decision.

*Sign up and tell your family of your decision. Heck, tell your friends too.

Fact: Federal law prohibits buying and selling organs in the U.S. Violators are punishable by prison sentences and fines.

Fact: People can recover from comas, but not brain death. Coma and brain death are not the same. Brain death is final.

Wondering how the donation process works? Find out here.

And, just for kicks, here’s really cool picture of a living girl and her old heart in a box.

The Big Daddy of organ donation is the United Network For Organ Sharing, who controls the nations list and keeps everything fair.

But my favorite place to register to be an organ donor is the Donate Life America site.

AND check out the Donate Life store where you can get a nice t-shirt, a cool magnet to stick on your car and show your organ donation pride (oh snap), or perhaps Uncle Ted won’t hate a set of special addition Donate Life Nike golf balls and will become an organ donor himself. Hey, we’re not below bribing folks to do the right thing…we’re Americans.


Jennifer Sky is a former model and actress. Her first e-book is forthcoming from The Atavist. Her writing has been featured in a number of print and on-line publications, including The New York Times, New York magazine’s The Cut, Tin House, Salon, and The Daily Beast. She is also a Contributing Editor for One Teen Story and lives in Brooklyn. You can find her online at jennifersky.com and Twitter at @jennifer_sky. More from this author →