Media Contact: Keith.O’Connor@baystatehealth.org, 413-794-7656
SPRINGFIELD – Now that it’s February and many of your New Year’s Resolutions may have gone by the wayside, there’s still one to consider that’s easy to achieve and will only take a few moments of your time - becoming an organ donor.
“Sadly, thousands die each year because of the lack of donor organs to meet the lifesaving needs of some 120,000 people on the national organ transplant waiting list,” said Dr. George Lipkowitz, medical director, Transplant Division, Baystate Medical Center, who added some 18 patients die each day while waiting for an organ.
Becoming a donor will make a big difference in someone’s life. Donors have the potential to save up to eight lives and improve the quality of life for up to 50 people needing organs or tissues.
“The gift of life is truly the ultimate gift that one can give to another. You can also give this gift of life during your lifetime as a living kidney donor. If, for some reason, the recipient and their living donor are not compatible, there are national paired exchange ‘swap’ programs available as another option for living donation,” added Pamela Fisk, RN, manager, Transplant Services, Baystate Medical Center.
Baystate offers the only Transplant Services in western Massachusetts for adult and pediatric patients requiring kidney transplants, with more than 170 patients currently on the waiting list. Making your wishes known is easy. Potential donors need only to sign a donor card, indicate their wishes on their driver’s license, or register online at donatelifenewengland.org.
However, while a signed donor card, online registration and a driver’s license with an “organ donor” designation are legal documents, organ and tissue donation should always be discussed with family members prior to any donation so they are well aware of your wishes, noted Dr. Lipkowitz.
He said believing you are too old to become a donor is a common myth. Anyone, regardless of age, should consider themselves as a potential donor. “Your medical condition at the time of death will determine what organs and tissues can be donated,” said Dr. Lipkowitz.
While great strides have been made in educating the public about deceased donations, there are many factors contributing to a decline in available organs, especially kidneys, as a more safety-conscious public results in fewer accidental deaths. Today, more and more people are making a difference in someone’s life by becoming a living kidney donor, offering a child or adult in western Massachusetts an alternative to waiting on the national transplant list for a kidney from a deceased donor. Those altruistic donors will be donating one of their two healthy kidneys, and after the transplant surgery will resume normal, active lives.
There are several benefits for a patient who receives a kidney from a living donor, including a higher success rate, a better genetic match which lessens the risk of rejection, and the transplant surgery can be scheduled at a time that is convenient for both the donor and the recipient.
Deciding whether you want to be a living kidney donor involves careful consideration. All potential donors must be in good health, over the age of 18, and before being accepted as a living donor will undergo a number of medical tests by the transplant team to make sure they are a suitable candidate.
Transplant surgeons use the latest techniques, including minimally invasive surgery, so that patients experience a faster recovery and spend less time in the hospital. In addition to experienced surgeons, the Baystate Transplant Team includes nephrologists, transplant coordinators, dietitians, pharmacists, and social workers. Living or deceased donor renal transplant is offered as treatment of end-stage renal disease.
To learn more about becoming a living kidney donor, call Baystate Medical Center’s Transplant Services at 413-794-2321. To learn more about organ and tissue donation, contact LifeChoice Donor Services at 1-800-874-5215. Also, for more information on Baystate Medical Center, visit www.baystatehealth.org/bmc.