On any given day, about 120,000 people are waiting for organ transplants — transplants that could literally save their lives. But each day, about 21 people die waiting for a transplant.
There’s a simple solution to this problem though: More of us need to sign up to be organ donors. And now.
Although a slim minority of us have moral or religious beliefs that are in conflict with the idea of organ donation, it turns out that most of us support it, but just haven’t filled out the proper paperwork. According to OrganDonor.gov, a whopping 95% of Americans are for the idea of organ donation, but only 54% have signed up.
Listen, I get it. I am almost 40, and I only just signed up to be an organ donor. If I am being perfectly honest, although for many years I had been all for the idea in theory, admitting to myself that I might die someday felt morbid and terrifying, as though checking off that little box for organ donation on my driver’s license application symbolized my possible untimely death.
Plus, I think the idea of donating organs just kind of creeps many of us out. Big time.
But it seems like there are actually a lot of myths surrounding organ donations out there — myths that kind of freak us out. So let’s clear them up with some facts.
Some people are of the mistaken belief that if they become organ donors, hospital staff won’t work as hard to save their lives. Not true at all, says the Mayo Clinic. “When you go to the hospital for treatment, doctors focus on saving your life — not somebody else’s,” they report. “You’ll be seen by a doctor whose specialty most closely matches your particular condition.”
Other people fear that their organs will be removed before they are declared dead. But this is completely untrue. In fact, as the Mayo Clinic points out, people who are signed up to be organ donors receive even more tests than non-organ donors to confirm that they are truly deceased. And none of this is at extra charge to their families.
The Mayo Clinic takes down a few other popular myths as well. Most religions actually do allow organ donation, they point out (you might want to discuss with your clergy to be sure). Open casket funerals are not a problem for people who donate their organs because measures can be taken for the body to be preserved and presented in respectful ways. And rest assured, your family will never be charged for you to donate.
Finally, it’s important to note that you do not have to be in perfect health to be an organ donor — very few medical conditions disqualify you from donating your organs.
So now let’s talk about benefits because they are huge and not just to the person whose life you will potentially save by donating your organs.
Stories abound of families who found that organ donation was a special way to commemorate a loved one’s life. It can give a family immense comfort knowing that their loved one’s life might save another. Sometimes you can even meet your loved one’s transplant recipient — and you will likely feel a sense of peace knowing that your loved one lives on in some way in them.
Let’s talk for a second about how exactly organ donation can save lives. It turns out that one organ donor can save up to eight lives. Really. For many recipients, organ transplant means a second shot at life, especially for those who are dealing with life-threatening conditions involving major organs like the heart and kidneys. But even for those who are not, organ transplant can mean a much better quality of life. Your donation can give sight to someone who cannot see or release someone from chronic pain.
Signing up to be an organ donor is quick and easy. You don’t even need to get up off the couch or put on real pants to do it. In fact, it can even be done from your phone. Go to OrganDonor.gov to find out how — there are several simple options there, specific to the state you live in. It took me all of five minutes to become a donor.
None of us have any excuses. So go do it, now. You could just be saving a life.
Seriously, do it now. What are you waiting for?