Learning about Organ Donation

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In honor of Donate Life Month, Dr. Dylan Wyatt and Emergency Medicine Physician at St. Luke’s explain organ donation.

What is organ donation?

Dr. Dylan: “Our body is made up of organs: the brain, heart, lungs, liver, kidneys, intestines, even skin. They perform vital functions that help keep all of us alive. Sometimes, however, organs can become damaged to the point where they don’t work anymore. This used to be a death sentence, but we now have the means of replacing a damaged organ with another organ from a different person – which can prolong life and health.”

Just how much need is there for organ donations?

Dr. Dylan: “Over 100,000 people – adults and children – are waiting for an organ transplant on the national transplant list (which coordinates getting organs to those who need them). 17 people die every day waiting for an organ transplant.”

Who can donate? And what is the process like?

Dr. Dylan: “The organs from transplant are obtained from willing donors, both alive and deceased. When someone dies, sometimes only some of their organs are affected by the process that causes their death. That means they still may have many healthy organs within their body. These organs can be removed from the body within a very short period around or after the time of death, and then can be implanted into a recipient who is waiting on the transplant list – saving their life. Living donors can also choose to donate an organ – such as one of their kidneys or part of their liver – to someone in need.

“It’s very important to know that becoming an organ donor is voluntary. You make the choice to become a donor, whether you choose to do it while living or when you die. The medical system will not take your organs against your will, and the care you receive will not be changed or withdrawn sooner because you are a donor.”

How can someone become a donor?

Dr. Dylan: “If someone wants to become an organ donor, there are many easy ways to do so. For Minnesota residents, Life Source Minnesota coordinates the donations. Search for their website, or call 1-888-5-DONATE for questions or to sign up. For Wisconsin residents, the Wisconsin Donor Registry is the point of contact. Also when you renew your driver’s license, there is an option to register as an organ donor – which will even get you a little heart on your driver’s license denoting you’re an organ donor.”