Friday, December 29, 2006

Organ Donation: Give the Gift of Life

In September 2006 my father's liver function deteriorated as a result of an advanced stage of primary biliary cirrhosis. His internal medicine physician and a nephrologist at Billings Clinic made arrangements with the University of Nebraska Medical Center in Omaha to evaluate him and to formulate a plan of action. The hospital flew him to Omaha late on a Tuesday night in October and by the end of the week several of us in the family made our way to Omaha. The diagnosis did not change but the prognosis did. He needed a liver and soon. After undergoing a myriad of tests to ascertain his overall health and his viability as an organ recipient, Dad was placed on the waiting list. As good as that news is to a waiting patient and family, there are some grim realities associated with the process. Nearly 20,000 people wait on the list and some 1700 die while waiting for a donated organ. By the grace of God our call came a mere 9 days later. His meld score was so high (a bad thing) that his transplant became imminent. On November 6, 2006 a family we've never met and a donor we could never thank gave the greatest gift imaginable. While one family in Omaha rejoiced another family in some other part of the country wept at what can only be described by me as a heroic loss.

I never gave the subject the consideration it deserves and that made me a fool. Brushing by the donation registration at the driver's license office proved just how selfish I was. Until it happens to you as the old saying goes. I never thought it would happen to me or within my immediate family. I was dead wrong. What state would we be in if everyone viewed organ donation with the same deadpan stare that I did? Medical procedures for transplants and pharmaceutical breakthroughs in the field of anti-rejection medication make the operations for organ transplants highly successful. Dad is recovering now and seems well on the way to regaining a normal life, free to enjoy his family and new grandson. I can never thank the donor and their family enough. It is such an easy decision and it is so amazing to watch life triumph over death. Speaking for me, there is no greater gift and I encourage everyone to become an organ donor. Talk about it with your family and decide for yourselves. Watch the gift of a loved one live on in a recipient that desperately needs a transplant. It is quite something to see the triumph after tragedy.


Dave Undis said...

Over half of the 94,000 Americans on the national transplant waiting list will die before they get a transplant. Most of these deaths are needless. Americans bury or cremate about 20,000 transplantable organs every year. Over 6,000 of our neighbors suffer and die needlessly every year as a result.

There is a simple way to put a big dent in the organ shortage -- give organs first to people who have agreed to donate their own organs when they die.

Giving organs first to organ donors will convince more people to register as organ donors. It will also make the organ allocation system fairer. People who aren't willing to share the gift of life should go to the back of the waiting list as long as there is a shortage of organs.

Anyone who wants to donate their organs to others who have agreed to donate theirs can join LifeSharers. LifeSharers is a non-profit network of organ donors who agree to offer their organs first to other organ donors when they die. They do this through a form of directed donation that is legal in all 50 states and under federal law. Anyone can join for free at or by calling 1-888-ORGAN88. No one is excluded due to any pre-existing medical condition.

LifeSharers has 7,396 members, including 33 members in Montana. Over 700 of our members are minor children enrolled by their parents.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for such an eye opener article.