August 20, 2020
Someone is added to the kidney transplant list every 14 minutes. They’re joined by more than 100,000 people in the United States currently awaiting a kidney transplant. Just over 17,000 of those waiting receive an organ annually, but the others wait, in part, because there are not enough donors.
The kidneys are two of eight vital organs that can be donated for transplantation, along with the heart, pancreas, two lungs, liver, and intestines. This means that just one donor could potentially save as many as eight lives.
While 90 percent of American adults support organ donation, only 60 percent are currently registered. This gap makes a significant difference; only 3 in 1,000 people die in a way that allows for organ donation, and while there were almost 40,000 transplants in 2019, 20 people still died each day waiting for a transplant.
Are you interested in learning more about how organ donation works? Here are a few important things you should know:
Any adult, and those under 18 with a parent or guardian’s permission, can become a donor. Many people sign up at the motor vehicle department when they get their driver’s license, but you can also register online at organdonor.org. Many states provide the option online to specify which organs can be donated.
The medical team treating a potential donor is always different than the transplant team. This ensures medical care is never affected by a patient’s organ donation status. The possibility for a donation is not considered until all efforts to save the potential donor’s life have been exhausted. Once this determination is made, organs are retrieved surgically at no cost to the donor’s family. The organ donation costs are typically covered by the transplant recipient or their insurance company.
As organs become available for donation, patients are selected for transplant based on factors ranging from severity of illness, blood type, and geographic location, to how long a patient has been waiting. The patients awaiting organ transplants are carefully vetted: they must receive a referral from their physician to be evaluated as a candidate and go through a screening process before being added to the Organ Procurement and Transplantation Network transplant list.
If you’re interested in becoming an organ donor, you can learn more about the process at organdonor.gov. This selfless act of kindness could one day result in providing someone with a second chance at life.