Giving the gift of life: organ donation

By on April 6, 2005

By Nicole Silva

Lifestyles Editor

For some, the most precious gift received could be from a friend, family member or a random stranger.

In the grand scheme of things, organ and tissue donation is a fairly new phenomenon. On December 23, 1954, Doctor Joseph E. Murray performed the first successful organ transplant in Boston.

“According to the United Network for Organ Sharing (UNOS), in their Annual Report 2001, one-year organ and patient survival rates for most organs improved between 1990 and 1999.”

Senior nursing student Rachel Pelkisson is an organ donor.

“If the opportunity ever came up where I needed an organ and someone’s generosity allowed me to receive one of theirs, I’d want to do the same for someone else,” Pelkisson said.

According to UNOS in 2004, there were 86,973 patients waiting for organs in the United States. However, according to the Connecticut Department of Motor Vehicles, out of the 2,407,763 licensed drivers, only 830,914 are registered organ donors.

There are some major misconceptions about organ donation. People feel as though doctors will not save a life if they know the person wants to donate their organs.

Junior Michael Fazzolari said, “They’ll purposely kill you if they expect you are an organ donor, I don’t want to take the chance.” “If a family member was in need, I would do it, I don’t see why not.” See, they wouldn’t purposely kill me if it was my family, but for a random stranger.”

While this seems to be a widespread belief, according to New York Organ Donor Network, “Donation can only occur after a patient has been declared brain dead by physicians who are not affiliated with the transplant recovery teams.”

Pelkisson works in a hospital and stated the main goal is to save a life, regardless or whether or not the person is a organ or tissue donor.

“In a hospital, besides physicians taking the Hippocratic Oath, people aren’t really thinking about your organs, they are thinking about saving your life,” Pelkisson said. “Witnessing trauma situations, organ donation isn’t even inquired until it is suspected that the person is not going to make it or comes into the hospital already dead.”

“Even if it is on your license or on a donor card, it doesn’t matter. They need to notify next of kin, which obviously protects your organs,” Pelkisson said.

The eyes and corneas, lungs, heart and heart valves, kidneys, liver, pancreas, intestines, skin, femoral and saphenous veins, bone and tendons can all be transplanted and donated. In essence, one donor can save up to eight lives through donation.

While signing up for an organ donor list sparks some hesitation, the act of giving an organ to a loved one seems to be a different story.

“I’d be willing to give my organs to a family member, even if I was still alive. If my brother needed a kidney to live, I’d give him one of mine,” Pelkisson said.

Pelkisson explained how one of her patients, a four year old girl, had kidney failure since she was one and is in need of a new kidney. She has a very rare blood and tissue type so it is hard to find a match, resulting in her being on the list for a year and a half.

“If it was someone like her, I’d definitely consider it. If it was an alcoholic, no. Or someone who did personal damage to their body through personal consequences, then I’d hold on to it to give it to someone else,” Pelkisson said.

According to New York Organ Donor Network, “Every 13 minutes, a new name is added to the national waiting list for organs.”

While some people are hesitant in offering their organs, others would give them in an instant.

Regardless of the fluctuation of people adding to the donor list, the waiting list is always growing. According to UNOS, in the United States, an average of 17 men, women and children of all races and ethnic backgrounds die every day for lack of donated organs.


About Nicole Silva