To Save Two Lives
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Share a Life ---By
of my job as a transplant coordinator is to meet with families who
have just lost a loved one in order to offer the option of organ
donation. The typical organ donor has suffered a sudden, catastrophic
event, resulting in massive brain damage and “brain death,” a legal
definition of death.
organ donors have been hospitalized for less than two days, so the
suddenness and finality of what has occurred leave family members
in a state of shock. But time is a critical factor and the only
time for a family to consent to donation is during this most fragile
often, family members are unaware of the deceased’s wishes. This
uncertainty can be so easily remedied. To become a donor, all you
need to do is make a decision and share it with your family. When
I speak with a family that has never discussed donation before,
its members’ pain and anguish may be multiplied. But when speaking
with family members who know their loved one’s wishes, it is very
different. If the decision is to donate, a sense of satisfaction
and hope is present. The family is able to fulfill its loved one’s
final wish: to share a life. Families tell me this gives them a
feeling of hope -- the knowledge that life goes on, that perhaps
some sense can be made of their tragedy.
permission from the next of kin is necessary to proceed with any
organ donation. The donor card you receive from the DMV, with its
“pink dot” -- or any such document signed and carried with you --
is a valuable tool to aid your family and those of us on the health-care
team. It helps us determine your wishes in the event donation becomes
an option. However, your donor card may not be available at the
critical moment when a decision must be made.
please, have that talk with your family. Don’t put them in the position
of making a decision for you when they are suffering. I’ve seen
this pain on many faces; I am aware of how difficult the decision
many families, in the months and years after consenting to donation,
tell us that making this gift got them through a horrible time.
We also hear from many families who, having said no to donation,
wish they had a second chance to make the decision. The single greatest
cause of death in those awaiting organ transplants is the shortage
of donor organs. This is a tragedy we can all do something about.
information about organ donation, call The Regional Organ Procurement
Agency’s toll-free number, (800) 933-0440.
Shea is a Nurse Transplant Practioner at the Regional Organ Procurement
Agency at the UCLA Medical Center.