Becoming an Organ Donor Is Important — and Easy

SPRINGFIELD — If you’ve already failed on one or more of your New Year’s resolutions, here’s one to replace them that is easy to achieve and will only take a few moments of your time — becoming an organ donor.

“Every 12 minutes, a new person is added to the national transplant wait list, which is already overcrowded with more than 123,000 people waiting for a life-saving organ. Sadly, every day 21 people die while waiting for an organ transplant,” said Dr. George Lipkowitz, medical director of Transplant Services at Baystate Medical Center.

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, Lipkowitz noted.

He added that believing you are too old to become a donor is just one of the many common misconceptions and inaccuracies about donation that persist today. Donate Life America offers the following facts to help people better understand organ, eye, and tissue donation:

• Anyone can be a potential donor regardless of age, race, or medical history.

• All major religions in the U.S. support organ, eye, and tissue donation and see it as a final act of love and generosity toward others.

• If you are sick or injured and admitted to the hospital, the number-one priority is to save your life. Organ, eye, and tissue donation can be considered only after you are deceased.

• When you are on the waiting list for an organ, what really counts is the severity of your illness, time spent waiting, blood type, and other important medical information, not your financial status or celebrity status.

• An open-casket funeral is possible for organ, eye, and tissue donors. Through the entire donation process, the body is treated with care, respect, and dignity.

• There is no cost to the donor or their family for organ or tissue donation.

• Information about an organ donor is released to the recipient only if the family of the donor requests or agrees to it.

“The gift of life is truly the ultimate gift that one can give to another,” said Pamela Fisk, manager of Transplant Services at Baystate Medical Center. “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.”

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 Mass. 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.

Baystate offers the only transplant services in Western Mass. for adult and pediatric patients requiring kidney transplants, with some 136 patients currently on the waiting list.

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, call LifeChoice Donor Services at (800) 874-5215.