TERRE HAUTE — Spring brings new life and April is Donate Life Month — designed to focus attention on the life-renewing act of organ donation.
Indiana ranks third among the 50 states for licensed drivers who have indicated a willingness to become organ donors, said Sam Davis, director of professional services and public affairs at the Indiana Organ Procurement Organization in Indianapolis.
Hoosiers “are kind, giving people,” Davis said, explaining Indiana’s relatively high participation rate. “People in Indiana are generous.”
Despite Indiana’s many potential donors, many more are needed, Davis said. There are more than 1,000 Hoosiers awaiting organ transplants and more than 100,000 people nationwide, he said. An average of 18 patients in America die each day waiting for an organ transplant, according to IOPO figures.
“Time is running out” for patients waiting for organ donations, Davis said.
Hospitals in Terre Haute are raising awareness this month about the need for organ donations. Union Hospital is marking Donate Life Month by flying a “Donate Life” flag below the American flag on its pole in front of the facility. Terre Haute Regional Hospital is marking the month by flying a “Donate Life” flag and with a ceremony April 21.
“It’s something that most of us believe in very deeply,” said Sandy Thompson, director of critical care and medical surgical nursing at Union.
“It’s something that [medical officials at Regional Hospital] are very passionate about,” said Mindy Balka, a spokeswoman for the south-side facility.
In 2008, organ donations that originated at Union Hospital were one heart, two lungs, four kidneys, two livers, two pancreases and one intestine. In all, those organs saved 12 lives last year, Union officials said.
A single donor recently saved the lives of six different people, said Dr. Ron Leach, medical director at Union.
According to IOPO, 441 people benefited from 138 organ donors in Indiana last year. A single donor can save the lives of up to eight people, according to IOPO’s Web site, www.iopo.org.
No organ transplants take place in Terre Haute. Methodist Hospital at Indianapolis is a common site for transplant operations, Leach said.
One goal of Donate Life Month is to dispel common myths about organ donation. One myth is the fear that registered donors will receive less care in the hospital if doctors and nurses know they are a donor. This is false, Leach said. “You will get treated like everybody else.”
Another myth is that only young people can sign up to be organ donors. This isn’t true, either, Leach said. Some tissue donors at Union have been in their 70s, he said. The oldest recorded kidney donor was 92, IOPO’s Davis said.
Organ donors must be declared “brain dead” before their organs can be “harvested,” Leach said. Once brain death occurs, IOPO takes over and the donor is no longer responsible for the hospital bills that are accumulated after brain death takes place, he noted.
The cost of most organ transplants is between $100,000 and $250,000, Leach said. Some may cost around $500,000, he added. The success rate for most types of organ transplants is more than 90 percent, he said.
And while about 3.1 million Hoosiers have agreed to become donors, just making that commitment doesn’t guarantee you will ever actually be an organ donor. Nearly all donors die from “catastrophic events,” such as accidents or suicides. And just signing the back of your driver’s license does not guarantee you can become a donor. It’s important to discuss your wishes to be a donor with family members to make sure your intentions are carried out, Thompson said.
For more information on becoming an organ donor, visit Donate Life Indiana
“You Have the Power to Save Lives – Sign Your Donor Card & Tell Your Loved Ones of Your Decision”
In Great Britain, register at NHS Organ Donor Register
In Australia, register at Australian Organ Donor Register
Your generosity can save up to eight lives with heart, kidneys, liver, lungs, pancreas and small intestine transplants. One tissue donor can help up to 100 other people by donating skin, corneas, bone, tendon, ligaments and heart valves