Today, I met with Margaret Pearson and Angelique Marseille, two regional coordinators with the Secretary of State’s Organ/Tissue Donor program, at Plainfield Central High School in Plainfield, IL. There, we talked to seven separate Drivers Ed classes throughout the school day about organ donation. During our presentations, Margaret explained the facts and importance of organ donation to the students, Angelique told the students her story as an organ recipient, and I rebutted common misconceptions that people had about organ donation.
Here are some common misconceptions that I refuted:
- If I become an organ donor, the paramedics will see that I am a registered donor and won’t try to save my life. – Organ donation isn’t even considered until the patient is considered brain dead. This means that there are absolutely no electrical signals being sent throughout the brain. Paramedics are trained to save lives, not take them. Only after all life-saving efforts have failed, a family requestor from The Gift of Hope Organ & Tissue Network (the organ procurement organization in northern Illinois) will meet with the family and inform the family if their loved one was a registered donor in Illinois.
- Organ and tissue donation is against my religion. – All the world’s major Eastern and Western religions support organ & tissue donation. Christianity describes it as the ultimate act of charity. Islam encourages it as an act of altruism. More detailed information can be found here.
- If I donate, my body is going to be mistreated and disfigured. – The process of organ recovery is one of the most well-respected and careful surgical procedures a surgeon takes part in. Every part of the body is handled with the utmost respect. Skin tissue will be collected from the back, and after organ donation the body will be diligently restored. An open-casket funeral is completely possible for many organ and/or tissue donors.
- Donating will cost me too much money – Organ donation is completely free of charge to the donor’s family. It makes no sense for donors to pay, otherwise who would do it?
- I can’t donate because I am too old. – Believe it or not, there is no age limit to organ and tissue donation. Many people can donate from any race, either gender, every ethnicity, age, and all religious affiliations.
Here are 5 new things I have learned:
- 8% of the U.S. population is born with only one kidney
- Often, people of the same race will donate to each other because sometimes the rejection rates are lower, but not always.
- Livers regenerate! A live donor who donates a segment of their liver can actually have theirs grow back to 90% of its original size.
- The oldest person to have donated an organ was 93 years old. He donated his liver. The oldest person to have donated a tissue was 107 years old. She donated her corneas.
- Surgeons can combine pieces of adult lungs and form them into a small lung for adolescents
Overall, it was a very interesting experience being able to talk to peers my age, and present to them about the mission of Life Goes On. The purpose of us being there that day was not only to explain to them about the importance of organ and tissue donation, but also to inform them about the law change allowing for 16 and 17 year olds to join the registry. Drivers Education classes are the fundamental starting ground for new drivers, and our role was to educate them on their new choice. I hope one day to present at Hinsdale Central.