The Benefits of Donating Organs

We’ve all heard that donating organs can save lives. As nurses, we’ve seen this firsthand. The little boy who was too young to even understand his condition gets a real chance with a new kidney. The young professional who suffered from heart problems at birth gets a new outlook and goes on to touch so many lives with a new heart.
Here are some of the benefits of donating organs that you can talk over with patients, friends, and families.

More and More People Need Organs

According to the United Network for Organ Sharing, every 10 minutes, another person is added to the wait list. To put that number in perspective, that’s 144 people in a single day. Those people could be a friend, a family member, or even you one day.

Of the growing list of people waiting for an organ, 20 of those on average die each day before they get their transplant.

One Donor, a Lot of Power

When a person signs up to donate their organs, they may think about only helping one person if they think about it at all. In fact, a single donor can save as many as eight lives with their organs. Isn’t that incredible? Saving one life is amazing, but saving eight is nothing short of miraculous.

If we just look at a single state, if half of the population became organ donors, it would be an incredible lifesaving movement. For example, in California, there were 39.54 million people recorded in the Census in 2017. Half of that is 19.77 million people, and with one person saving up to eight lives, that’s a potential 158.16 million people saved by organ donation.

Transplant Recipients Get a New Start

For many transplant recipients, an organ means a new life. As a nurse, you’ve seen the poor condition of patients waiting for an organ. It can be heartbreaking to watch the patient deteriorate with every day passing waiting on the organ that may never come. That’s why it’s important for us to help our patients understand the power of organ donation.

An organ also means living a normal life. The patient who needed a kidney can begin normal activities like going out on a Friday night or making weeklong vacation plans because they aren’t dependent on their dialysis machines. For others, they may get to see their loved ones again or watch the sunset on a beautiful day.

For a little boy named Caleb who was born with prune belly syndrome that caused his kidneys to fail, he knows the change of living a normal life all too well. Caleb’s mom, Monica, was able to donate one of her kidneys to her 3-year-old, and now he is living a more independent life.

Organ Donation Also Benefits the Donor and the Families

Before a donor dies, it may be comforting to them knowing that they will save lives with their organs one day. Many may not think about it, especially if they aren’t aware of their mortality, but others who are aware can take comfort in knowing they will continue to touch lives.

Although it may be tough at first, organ donation is often helpful and even therapeutic for the donor’s family. It’s hard to lose a loved one, but it’s helpful to know that a part of your loved one will live on and save others.

Consider this story featured on organdonor.gov: Tribhawan and Jasmin lost their 21-year-old son, Anand, in a car accident. Their son hadn’t signed up to be an organ donor before, and honestly, the family probably didn’t think about it. It was a nurse that encouraged them to think about it.

Anand’s organs saved at least four lives, and his parents were able to contact their recipients. They recognize that in losing their son, they received a blessing to make a difference in many other lives through organ donation.

Organ Donations Also Furthers Research

If organs do not meet transplant requirements, they are other options, such as research, to further what we know about diseases and their effects on the body. Organs and tissues help scientists further their knowledge about asthma, cancer, diabetes, kidney disease, liver disease, and more. The International Institute for the Advancement of Medicine created an interactive diagram to show how it uses organs in research that may be helpful for some people to view.

Losing a loved one is never easy, and neither is watching a loved one deteriorate due to disease and illness. If, as nurses, we can convince more people to take part in organ donation, then we can touch many more lives than we already do daily on each shift.

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