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April Is National Donate Life Month

By Staff | Apr 3, 2008

While the majority of us enjoy good health, there are many in our society who are in different circumstances. Many are undergoing treatment for illnesses, and in some cases, are in line for organ or tissue transplants. Even with the advances in medical science, a critical shortage exists at this moment for organ and tissue donors across the United States.

The month of April is observed annually as National Organ and Tissue Donation Month, and for one Emmetsburg woman, the observation continues to have a very special and personal meaning.

Cindy Baker received a kidney and pancreas transplant on December 23, 1998, and since that time, has given countless hours of her time and efforts to make people aware of the importance of tissue and organ donation and the “gift of life” that the donation of organs or tissue can provide to someone who is desperately in need of a transplant.

“This is my contribution to let other know just how important it is to donate the ‘Gift of Life’ and to recognize these donors and families that have given the ‘Gift of Life’, because they are the true heroes, along with the transplant doctors, nurses, anesthesiologists and others in the medical field,” Baker said.

Currently, over 98,000 men, women and children of all ages are waiting for life saving transplant procedures as of March 31, 2008. Sadly, in 2007, only 28,353 transplants of organs or tissue were performed in the nation, and there were only 14,394 donations during the year.

To bring the numbers closer to home, in Iowa alone, over 300 people are waiting on transplant lists for organs as of April 1. According to the Iowa Donor Network, there are 3422,361` Iowans who have registered on the Iowa Donor Registry: http://www.IowaDonorRegistry.org

Are you one of them?

The need is ongoing and critical, as every 11 minutes of the day and night, another name is added to the National Transplant List. Sadly enough, an average of 19 people per day run out of time and die because of a lack of available organs for those life-saving transplants.

The donation of organs and tissue by one person can save or improve the lives of 50 other people. The major organs, along with corneas, bones, connective tissue, heart valves and skin are all used to aid those in need. People who are waiting for transplants are matched by blood types, length of time on the transplant waiting list and their medical condition. When an organ or tissue becomes available, the transplant center tries to match it up with a local need, but if no match is made, the donated organ or tissue is made available regionally and then nationally.

Organs must be used within six to 72 hours aver removal from the donor, depending on the organ.

However, living donors also have a special place in the efforts to give the “Gift of Life”. Living donors can donate one of their kidneys, one of the lobes of the liver, a lung or part of a lung, a portion of the pancreas or part of an intestine. Tissues from living donors include blood, bone marrow, blood stem cells, platelets and serum, the fluid that carries the blood products.

The National Living Donor Assistance Center helps donors with travel, lodging and meal expenses associated with the donor process. For more information on this organization, visit their website at: http://www.NationalLivingDonorAssistanceCenter.org

“I will be celebrating 10 years of life this coming December,” noted Baker, “because I would not be here if I had not received by transplant when I did.”

Baker has written to the family of the donor of her kidney and pancreas regularly to provide them with updates on her life. “I haven’t met them yet, but I’m still hoping to. I want to meet them some day and thank them in person for their generous “Gift of Life.”

In Iowa, licensed drivers have the option of indicating their wishes on organ donation on their drivers’ license. Otherwise, persons who wish to donate tissue or organs are urged to carry an organ donor’s card. The most important thing to remember is that the wishes of a person must be made known to family members and friends. When such a decision is made, registering with the Iowa Donor Registry is a simple as going online to www.IowaDonorRegistry.org to download necessary forms, including the family notification form. Otherwise, contact the Iowa Donor Network at 1-800-831-4131 for information.