National Donate Life Month

By Dr. Velma P. Scantlebury

Each year we celebrate Donate Life during the month of April. It is a time when local and national activities are held to encourage Americans to register to be organ, eye and tissue donors.  During the month of April, we also celebrate those that have saved lives through the gift of organ and tissue donation.

Why the importance of organ donation?  Here are some facts:

- A single organ donor can save up to eight people, and a tissue donor can save the lives of up to 75 people.

- Currently there are over 113, 000 people on the waiting list for an organ.

- Twenty people die each day waiting for an organ.

- While 95% of Americans support organ donation, only 56% of persons nationally sign on to be organ donors. 

As a transplant surgeon for the past 30 years,  I am constantly aware of the hundreds of patients awaiting organ transplantation, especially kidney transplants. Of the 113,000 patients, over 84 % are awaiting kidney transplantation. Kidney disease affects over 40 million people in the United States, accounting for 13% of the population, many of who are not aware of their underlying disease. Type 2 diabetes and hypertension are the two leading causes of kidney disease and kidney failure, accounting for the majority of patients in need of an organ.

Unfortunately, many people are reluctant to donate for fear or distrust of the medical professionals.  For others, it may be due to misconceptions and inadequate education.

 My goal is to continue to educate our communities and people bring more awareness to the need of organ donation, both as living donors and after death by signing on to be a deceased donor.  Rest assured that organ donation is not discussed until there is documented brain death or no hope of recovery of the patient. Organ donation can also be initiated by the family beforehand.

The majority of donated organs are from deceased organ donors, whose families gave the gift of life even at the time of grief and death of their loved ones. This month, we celebrate and pay tribute to all those donors and families who agreed to organ donation. For most families, knowing that their loved ones live on through the lives of those benefiting from their gifts, brings much gratitude and thankfulness for choosing organ donation.

Donors are the true heroes. There are also hundreds of living donors each year, giving a kidney or part of their liver or lung to save the life of someone else. Living donors risk their lives to help others. They should be celebrated. They chose to save the life of someone else. Do you know a living donor? Are you aware of someone who donated their loved ones organs? Thank them for their gifts and their example.  Give the gift that save lives.

Learn more at: www.donors1.org

 

Dr. Velma P. Scantlebury is the first African American woman transplant surgeon of the United States. She has received many honors in her career having been named to both the “Best Doctors in America” and “Top Doctors in America” list multiple times. Scantlebury has been awarded the Woman of Spirit Award inspiring others and the “Gift of Life Award” from the National Kidney Foundation. She has performed over 2,000 transplants and published many peer-reviewed papers.

Dr. Velma P. Scantlebury is the first African American woman transplant surgeon of the United States. She has received many honors in her career having been named to both the “Best Doctors in America” and “Top Doctors in America” list multiple times. Scantlebury has been awarded the Woman of Spirit Award inspiring others and the “Gift of Life Award” from the National Kidney Foundation. She has performed over 2,000 transplants and published many peer-reviewed papers.