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Organ and tissue transplants give thousands of people new leases on life every day. But for every individual who receives an organ donation, there are many, many more who wait. Organ donation is the one area in medicine where there is a cure, but often there aren’t enough organs to help everyone who needs one.
Here’s what you need to know about the importance of being an organ donor.
Q: Why are so many men, women and children on the organ donation list?
A: Nearly 100,000 people in the U.S. await lifesaving organ transplants. The problem is not enough people agree to be donors upon their deaths, leaving an organ deficit and a long list of patients in need. Just as anyone can find himself or herself in need of an organ, anyone can be a potential donor.
Q: Are just organs needed?
A: Almost every part of the body can be used. With a single whole-body donation, eight to 50 lives can be saved or improved. Corneas can be used for eye surgery, skin for grafts and ligaments for knee reconstruction. Now it's even possible to use donated bone for patients facing certain bone cancers, helping them avoid amputation.
Q: What options exist for those waiting for a new organ?
A: Rather than sit on the list for six to seven years, getting sicker, many turn to family and friends for what is called a living donation. The most common type is a whole-kidney donation, although segments of a liver or lung also now can be transplanted from a living donor. In those cases, the donated piece of lung or liver grows into a new organ in the recipient, and the donor regenerates his or her missing portion.
Q: How can I help?
A: It's simple: Register yourself as an organ and tissue donor. In the event of your untimely death, your family likely will be approached about donation. It's important you share your wishes with them to avoid any confusion or delays.
To find out more about how organ donation and organ transplants are making a difference every day at Baylor University Medical Center at Dallas, click here.
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