A Priceless Gift – National Donate Life Month Highlights the Need for Organs

National Donate Life Month (NDLM) was instituted by Donate Life America and its partnering organizations in 2003. Celebrated in April each year, NDLM features an entire month of local, regional, and national activities to help encourage Americans to register as organ, eye, and tissue donors and to celebrate those that have saved lives through the gift of donation.

People of all ages and medical histories should consider themselves potential deceased donors. Your medical condition at the time of death will determine what organs and tissue can be donated. 

All major religions support donation as a final act of compassion and generosity, and there is no cost to the donor’s family or estate for donation. The donor family pays only for medical expenses before death and costs associated with funeral arrangements. 

A national system matches available organs from the donor with people on the waiting list based on blood type, body size, how sick they are, donor distance, tissue type, and time on the list. Race, income, gender, celebrity, and social status are never considered. 

Transplantation is one of the most remarkable success stories in the history of medicine. It offers patients a new chance at healthy, productive, and normal lives, and returns them to their families, friends and communities. 

The vast majority of Americans support donation as an opportunity to give life and health to others. Unfortunately, many people overlook the important step of registering as a donor. Donors are often people who die suddenly and unexpectedly. Their families are then faced with making the decision at a time of shock and grief. Registering relieves your family of this burden and serves as a gift to them, as well as to the grateful recipients of your donation.

Here are some key statistics. In 2016, more than 33,600 transplants (from 9,900 deceased and 5,900 living donors) brought renewed life to patients and their families and communities. However, more than 116,000 men, women, and children await life-saving organ transplants, and another person is added to the nation’s organ-transplant waiting list every 10 minutes. Sadly, 8,000 people die each year (22 people each day — almost one person each hour) because the organs they need are not donated in time.

Living donations are as critical as deceased ones. About 80{06cf2b9696b159f874511d23dbc893eb1ac83014175ed30550cfff22781411e5} of patients on the waiting list are waiting for a kidney. The average waiting time for a kidney from a deceased donor is three to five years. A kidney from a living donor offers patients an alternative to years of dialysis and time on the national transplant waiting list (the living donor’s remaining kidney will enlarge, doing the work of two healthy kidneys). Meanwhile, 12{06cf2b9696b159f874511d23dbc893eb1ac83014175ed30550cfff22781411e5} of patients waiting are in need of a liver. Living donation of part of the liver can help these patients, while the remaining portion of the donor liver will regenerate and regain full function.

More than 138 million people, approximately 56{06cf2b9696b159f874511d23dbc893eb1ac83014175ed30550cfff22781411e5} of the U.S. adult population, are registered organ, eye, and tissue donors. To register as a donor, visit registerme.org