Through the Community Educator program, Lifeline of Ohio visits high school and college classrooms in central and southeast Ohio to educate students about the facts and myths surrounding organ, eye and tissue donation. Students’ curiosity about the details of the organ donation and transplant process frequently reflect questions we hear in our own communities. We share a few of those questions and answers below as a benefit to all readers.
Q: Can you choose to be an organ donor only when you die?
A: Being a registered organ donor, or saying ‘yes’ when you get your driver’s license at the Bureau of Motor Vehicles, means you are agreeing to donate when you die. People can donate organs while they are living by arranging it with a hospital, such as the Wexner Medical Center at The Ohio State University. The organs that can be donated while a person is living are: kidney, lobe of the liver, lobe of the lung, part of the small intestine and very rarely, part of the pancreas. A person has to be over 18 years of age to be a living organ donor.
Q: What happens if a recipient cannot be found in time to transplant a donor’s organs?
A: We do not recover the heart, liver, lungs, pancreas or small intestine from a donor unless the organ has a place to go. We know exactly who will receive that organ before it is recovered. For example, the heart must be transplanted within four to six hours after it is removed from the donor – we don’t recover a heart and then hope to find someone who would take it in four hours. Because kidneys can stay outside the body longer, sometimes they can be recovered before we find the right candidate match. In the case of weather or other emergencies that prevent us from getting the organ to the best candidate, we could pass the organ to a recipient who might not be the best candidate but is still a match and we can physically get it to them. Otherwise the organ can go to a research institute, or it will be left in the body to be buried with the donor.
Q: What is currently happening in the world of brain donation, if anything?
A: We can donate our brain for education or research. For example, universities are studying how concussions might affect the brain after a long period of time. They are also looking at issues like autism and Alzheimer’s, too. Usually a person has to set up donating a brain with a research program in advance of their death because it would be considered a special donation. The brain is not something we recover.
Q: Are organs sewn together after donation or will the tissue grow together?
A: When an organ is transplanted, it is sewn into place by sewing the blood vessels that go to it. This gives the organ the blood it needs to work in the recipient (the person who got the organ) and holds it in place. The vessels will heal and the stitches dissolve.
Q: Do you have to die to have your corneas donated?
A: Yes, a person can die of brain death or cardiac death (this means the heart stops beating) and donate cornea. We do not take cornea from someone who is living.
Organ and tissue donation saves and heals millions of lives every year. Be a hero and register as an organ, eye and tissue donor today at www.donatelifeohio.org.
If you are teacher or school administrator interested in having a Community Educator from Lifeline of Ohio come visit your school, please contact Ron Packard, community education manager, at (614) 384-7332 or email@example.com.