The Gift Of Life
by Cindy Hermanson-Coffee
There is one clear fact that every person in this world can agree on: at some point in our lives, we are all going to face the reality of death. Death is imminent to each and every one of us, and the prospect of death is usually unknown and very tragic to most people. It is the unknown that can instill the fear of dying in a person or a family. Tragic accidents and terminal diseases are often the source of many deaths, and invariably in those instances we are unable to control the end result, which is death. However, in the course of life and death, there are life- threatening situations that we do have the ability to control. It becomes a choice by a person or a family to offer the greatest gift, life to another person. Life is spared for many through organ donation. Organ donation is truly a gift of life that saves hundreds of lives each day, however, even greater than the number of lives saved is the number of deaths that occur each day as people on a organ transplant waiting list continue to wait. Organ donation is a precious gift that can be given by anyone and can save many lives.
All human beings should understand the importance of being an organ donor. Young or old, rich or poor, any one of us may one day get the chance to save or enhance someone's life by becoming an organ donor. Also of greater importance is that someone else may give you or your loved one a chance to live because they chose to become an organ donor. The choice you or your family makes allows a person that may be following a road to death, the chance to take a different road to the gift of life. This ultimate choice can be a precious gift of life, care, and concern for our fellow human being. In a life or death situation, one would most likely graciously accept a transplant; surely it should follow that you should also be prepared to donate your own organs.
Although families may suffer a great loss when they lose a loved one, their loss can be hope for many other families. Organ donation is a way to know that all is not lost in death. Because of organ donation life can go on for others. It is often difficult for loved ones to make such a choice, when they are bereaving and suffering the loss of a loved one; however, death would not be a complete end to their loved one if life could be given to another human being by their organ donation. What a greater gift to give to another than the chance to live with the help of someone who meant so much to you.
The greater issue to think about is the possibility that you or a loved one may be the person who is nearing death because an organ transplant is necessary to live. Loved ones, especially children, capture our hearts and our love. Just imagine having what you think is a beautiful, normal, healthy child, and one day you find out that your child is going to die without an organ transplant. Or what if your child was terminally ill but could give the gift of life to another child. Something similar happened to a real family (Diehl). Nicholas Diehl was eleven years old. He was a vibrant, normal, little boy that loved life. Nicholas had chronic asthma most of his life. He died suddenly of respiratory failure. His family was devastated; they had lost their son. However, in their response to his death and their decision to donate his organs, his family knows that Nicholas lives on in others. They know that his gift not only touched their hearts, but he touched others around him. Would you hope that someone has cared enough to donate their lost loved one's organs so that your child could live a long life? Most of us could answer that question easily with a "yes". However, sometimes the gift of life is not thought of in that scenario, therefore, the choice to become an organ donor is not given a lot of thought for these realistic scenarios.
From the July 4, 2001 issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association, new studies show that almost 80,000 are on a waiting list for an organ transplant, and that the need for donated organs continues to grow faster than the supply of available organs. Evidence shows that families' refusal to consent to patient organ donation may be a factor in the shortage of organ donors. The refusal to consent to a loved ones organ donation does not come from uncaring families, the refusal is being done by families that have never discussed with a loved one the importance of organ donation. People tend to shy away from discussing issues that bring pain or hurt to them. No one likes to talk about the "what ifs" of life and death. We all must realize that death and dying will always be a real and definite factor in our lives, therefore, discussing with your family ways to prolong life will not only be a benefit to others but may also end up being a benefit to you and your loved one.
Facts about organ donation and transplantation need to be made available to the public. Some people think that those waiting for transplants are old people. This is simply not so. In an article from the Chicago Sun-Times 60% of those waiting are between the ages of 18 and 49, and 7% of those waiting are children. Also, in the last twenty-five years more than a million people worldwide have benefited from vital organ transplants (Illinois Hospital Association). This information could help people and their families realize the importance and the need to be an organ donor. Most people are not aware of the many issues related to organ donation. Organ donors range from newborns to senior citizens. There are twenty-five different organs and tissues that can be transplanted to save many lives (More Facts). Vital organs can be transported hundreds of miles to a recipient in need. Every fourteen minutes another name is added to the transplant list, and this list includes thousands of innocent children (Illinois Hospital Association). Each day sixteen people on the waiting list die because an organ was not available. One donor can save up to seven lives and enhance the lives of up to thirty others (Dallas News). Organ recipients lead full productive lives for years following a transplant. And one of the most rewarding benefits to all is the gift of life.
Losing a loved one is and will always be a devastating reality in all of our lives at some point. What a comforting feeling to know that when death occurs in one we can make a choice for life to begin in another. This feeling should be enough motivation to any human being to become an organ donor. What better way to turn sorrow or grief into something good? The chance for someone's loved one to be healthy again, to watch their children or grandchildren grow, or for a baby to grow to be an adult. People just like yourself or your family could continue to enjoy all of life's simple pleasures. Becoming an organ donor would be a reward beyond belief for many families, and the chance for the family of the lost loved one to know that life for someone else could be continued because of a simple act of becoming a donor and caring for our fellow human beings. Sisters, brothers, mothers, fathers, sons and daughters are all human beings with a will to live and a desire to help the helpless. Unselfish sacrifice without a personal loss is a rewarding gain for a deserving soul.
The choice to become an organ donor is simple. The first step is to talk to your family and loved ones about organ donation and what it does. An individual can become an organ donor simply by signing a uniform organ donor card, such as your driver's license and having a witness to that signature. But most importantly, make sure your intentions to donate are known to your family to ensure that your wishes are carried out. Even with a donor card signed your family must give the consent before your wishes are carried out. When families discuss organ donation and are aware of a loved ones request to do this, they feel some consolation knowing that the gift of life is being given. It offers the family some sense that their loved one's death was not in vain. Make the decision for yourself. Make the decision for your family, and give them the comfort of knowing that they can carry out your wishes. And finally, make the decision to someday save lives.
- Dallas News."Klug Lucky to be Alive".29 January 2002. 12 November 2003 http://olympics.belointeractive.com/snowboarding/0130klug.2fle292.html
- Illinois Hospital Association. "Organ/Tissue Donation and Transplantation. 28 October 2003. 12 November 2003 http://www.ihatoday.org/public/organ/
- Diehl, Cynthia. "My Mom Is A Survivor-Organ/Tissue Donor. 12 November 2003 http://www.moms-dads.com/sim7.html
- Chicago Sun-Times. "A Transplant Journey". 14 January 2002. 12 November 2003 http://www.robi.org/newsandfeatures/issues/remarks_atransplantjourney.asp
- "More Facts About Organ Donation and Transplantation". 1995. 12 November 2001 Http://my.inil.com/-paulh/FACTS.HTM
- Journal of the American Medical Association. "Organ Donations Increase When Families Have Good Information about the Donation Process". 3 July 2001. 12 November 2003 http://www.ahrg.gov/news/press/pr2001/organpr.htm
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