Become A Donor
There is a little pink circle with the word “DONOR” that we proudly display on our California licenses. This proclaims that when we die, we wish to donate our organs to those who will perish without them. Primarily, the heart, lungs, liver, and kidneys are most sought after. Even the corneas and skin can be retrieved up to 12 hours after passing. It is truly a gift.
This morning I watched a documentary about a young man who died and his family’s decision to donate his heart. I watched the family and the recipient of the heart meet for the first time. The look of gratitude on the man’s face was equal to the grief seen in the smiles of the family who lost their boy. They hugged tightly, and as a family, took turns listening to the heart with a stethoscope. They cried while listening to the heart that once beat inside someone they loved. I wondered if it sounded familiar? How very proud they must have been of their son who so freely gave the gift of life. That is a generous soul who left far too early. Yet he left his mark. He saved a life.
I am not sure how the donor process works in different countries, but I would love to hear your stories. After being in the medical field for over 25 years, I have seen and heard many misconceptions about donating your organs. I felt this would be a great time to share just a little of the information I have on the subject and hopefully settle a common myth.
The biggest misconception is that if a person has that little pink circle on their license, their wishes to donate after death will happen. Not true. First, a person must demise with little injury to their body. Most commonly, head injuries have the least effect on the organs making them ideal for donating. A diseased patient usually will not be able to give organs, but skin is always an option, and the decision doesn’t have to be made directly after death.
A person loses their rights when they pass and the decision of donating become’s the spouse or family’s. Even if you have the sticker, if your family says “no”, it will not happen. This is why it is very important to make sure that your family and loved ones have no question about your wishes and are willing to carry them through. A will, or any document stating your desire, will be over ridden should a spouse, parent, or child decline. This happens for many reasons, but what a beautiful thing to come from such a tragic ending, I would encourage you to honor your family members wishes, even if it isn’t your own.
Many accomplish great things in a lifetime, but to have great generosity even after you pass is perhaps the greatest gift in the world. Of course, it is unfortunate that it takes the death of a loved one to provide someone else life, but how beautiful a gesture. Many of the recipients feel survivor’s guilt - that they got to live because of the tragic demise of a complete stranger. They need to realize that they are part of a beautiful act of human kindness and are honoring the courageous wishes of a genuine soul.
I let my tears flow easily as I watched the reunion. It was a palpably happy and sad moment for both parties. I hope that his mom could hear something - anything - that showed her that her son still lived through someone else. I know the grief was great, but her pride was bigger. It was, in fact, as large as the heart that keeps this man alive. What a phenomenal life!
Consider becoming a donor. For those of you who have already made this decision, remember that it is not enough to just get the sticker. Tell your family. Make sure they understand how important this is to you. NOTHING in this life will mean more than that. Nothing indeed. For more information on becoming a donor, go to www.organdonor.gov.
Hope the holidays were safe and great for all. Take care of yourself and each other. Let’s talk tomorrow. I will bring the coffee. -Ruth