Organ Donation: The Gift of Life

IMAGE Many people are alive today and leading productive lives because medical science has become so skilled in transplanting some essential organs. Nonetheless, there is a shortage of donors, and many patients die while still on the waiting list. Although most people support the idea of donation, misinformation and a lack of communication prevent donations from occurring. Organ donation is one of the most rigorously monitored medical procedures. Strict rules and regulations are put in place to make sure that people have a fair chance at receiving vital organs.

The Wait

How Many People Are Waiting?

More than 120,000 Americans are waiting for an organ transplant. Kidney and liver are the 2 most commonly needed organs according to the Organ Procurement and Transplantation Network (OPTN). Currently, donated organs are distributed within local areas, then in several regions, then nationally.

How Are Organs Matched to a Transplant Candidate?

It is illegal for people to buy or sell organs in the United States. Organs are matched to transplant candidates by a complex point system devised by the United Network for Organ Sharing (UNOS) that considers blood and tissue type, time spent on a waiting list, medical urgency, and other factors. Transplant candidates are assigned a status starting with the most ill, then are reorganized based on the other classifications.

The Transplant

Who Are the Transplant Recipients?

Candidates for organ transplant are carefully screened by their local doctors and often a transplant team before their names are submitted for transplant surgery. Timing is important. The sooner a person gets the new organ, the better the chances are at having a successful transplant. Many health plans ask organ transplant candidates if they are well enough to wait for their organ at a motel or hotel near a registered United States transplant center. Because this often involves temporary relocation, some health plans also pay the travel expenses of a family member.Since so many factors must be coordinated, many health plans assign a case worker to organ transplant candidates. Treatment often includes psychological and spiritual counseling for the entire family prior to the transplant, and then follow-up reminders about diet, exercise, lifestyle, and medications after the surgery. Any organ transplant requires life-long doses of anti-rejection medications that have a number of side effects.If you or someone you know needs a transplant, it is important to know all aspects of what is involved. Take some time to research the ins and outs of organ transplantation.

Who Is on the Transplant Team?

A typical transplant team includes the surgeon, a specialty doctor, an infectious disease doctor, a social worker, pastoral care staff, a psychologist, a nurse transplant coordinator, and the health plan's case manager. When a health plan evaluates a candidate for transplant, they usually consider the person's age and health, the support of family members, substance abuse, and other factors.

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