Need for organ donors increases

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As the list of patients needing organ transplants increases, so does the need for more organ donors.

Organ donor numbers are not increasing, though, said Michelle Segovia, Texas Organ Sharing Alliance Community Relations coordinator, resulting in more people waiting for necessary organs. There are about 113,000 people in the U.S. waiting for an organ transplant, and 11,000 of them are in Texas, Segovia said. She said more than 18 people die every day because they are waiting for a transplant.

“There is a critical shortage of organs, and we have the power to change that,” Segovia said. “One person can save eight lives by being an organ donor.”

Mary Steinhardt, kinesiology and health education professor, has hosted organ donation registry drives on campus and said being a donor is a wonderful final act while on earth.

“The powerful stories I have heard over the years of individuals being helped with organ donations is very touching.” Steinhardt said. “Of course, there is tremendous sadness at the same time for the family who loses their loved one, but at least the person is continuing the life of another loved one.”

Segovia said it only takes one minute to be included in the Texas organ donors database with a driver’s license renewal, or by signing up at donatelifetexas.org.

“People don’t realize it, but you have to die in a very specific way to even be eligible to donate organs, so we want everyone who is eligible to be a donor,” she said.

The donor must be in the hospital, on a ventilator and brain dead to donate their organs, Segovia said. She said less than two percent of people who die in the hospital meet these qualifications.

“When you are brain dead, you are dead,” she said. “It’s different than brain damage. You must be on a ventilator so your heart is still beating and your lungs still have oxygen so they are healthy.”

She said it is rare for all these qualifications to be met, so when it does occur and the patient was not signed up as a donor, TOSA will approach the family to ask if the patient’s organs may be used to save someone else.

“We work with wonderful donor families every day who are having the worst day of their life because a loved one has just passed away,” she said. “Their decision is much easier if they had had that conversation prior and knew being a donor was your wish.”

Communication studies sophomore Shelbi Flood is a member of Alpha Kappa Psi, a co-ed professional business fraternity that hosts blood drives for community service. She said she made the decision to become an organ donor when she got her driver’s license renewed.

“I’ve had family members who needed transplants so I really wanted to become a donor,” Flood said. “If I don’t need my organs anymore and I’m in a position to donate, why should I be selfish? It’s so easy to do.”

Printed on Friday, April 13, 2012 as: Hospitals, organizations hope to increase organ donations