TODAY IS FEBRUARY 14th, that pesky little day of love we all get so worked up about. Valentine's Day is also, quite fittingly, National Donor Day. I'm not sure who would have chosen the 14th of February as National Donor Day (probs the government) but it's a clever choice (well done DOHHS), being an organ donor is truly the final act of love one can give. On a day when all of us are thinking about loving and being loved, it's a good way to get us to take a step back and think of what we can do to pass it on when we leave.
This is what I looked like right before transplant and what I looked like 5 months later.
There are no filters here, my eyes were actually that yellow. This photo was taken about 10 days before they found a donor. I would get much worse in the days to come and my eyes would get more and more yellow. At that point, I wasn't so interested or able to take selfies or document much of it -- much to my regret! Thanks to an organ donor I got to jump in the air on a beach in January, something I wasn't quite sure I'd be able to when the photo on the left was taken.
You truly cannot take your flesh and bone and organs with you and as one of my surgeons has said to me: why not be part of the continuum of life? If we can cultivate a culture of recycling, why can't we do it in every aspect of our lives? An organ donor saved my life and I was an organ donor before I got sick because my feeling was, why on earth not? There are lot of people out there--young and old, chronically ill or hit with a strange who-knows-what-mystery-illness (like myself)--and some who remain very ill for many years or ultimately pass away because they are on a waiting list. We have a severe shortage of organ donors worldwide. This is avoidable. One organ donor can save up to 8 lives and improve the lives of up to 50 people by donating tissues and eyes.
There are also a lot of myths and misconceptions surrounding organ donation and transplants, ones I hope to dispel on this blog. Yes, you will still get the best care possible if you're an organ donor and in a life-threatening situation. Yes, you will be able to be buried with your family if you are an organ donor. The most important thing to know if you do decide to become an organ donor is that you should notify your family or next of kin of your decision. If they are not familiar with your wishes, it may be more difficult for them to come to terms with it if it does come down to you being an organ donor (which is also unlikely). There is not a lot of data on the subject, but of the studies that have been done, you are 6 times more likely to need a transplant than to become a deceased donor.
Go to ORGANIZE, UNOS or, if you are in the UK, go to the NHS website to learn more. Canadians also have a great system and can go here to register. For Australians, go to this website. A quick google search for anywhere else in Europe, South America or Asia will pull up results. It's completely within our reach to end the waiting list in the US and the UK. That would be a huge feat and change SO many lives. Considering becoming an organ donor gives you the option to commit one final act of kindness.