Each day in the United States the National Kidney Foundation reports more than one million persons on the kidney transplant list.
A whopping 660,000 with kidney failure, 37 million with chronic kidney disease and 1 in 3 Americans are at risk for kidney disease!
Sadly many people will never get the call informing them that a donor organ is available for their use. An estimated 20 persons die each day for lack of donor organs.
Our Kidneys and Why We Need Them?
The Human kidneys, shaped like two kidney beans lie against the back muscles of in the upper abdomen. They are located on the left and right sides of the back (flank) muscles with the right kidney ‘sitting’ a little lower than the left due the the size and shape of the liver.
Combined our kidneys contain about 1.2 million renal corpuscles that filter up to 1500 liters (400 US gallons) of blood daily. What a powerhouse!
It purifies the blood and removes toxins from the body. They control the water balance, regulates our electrolytes like, sodium and potassium and maintains homeostasis thus keep us alive.
The renal system aids in the breakdown some medications such as NSAIDS (non-steroidal anti inflammatory drugs) making it available for use by our bodies. One such example is advil. The kidneys excretes all these waste products in the form of urine.
What happens when our kidneys malfunction?
If our kidneys are not functioning at their optimum or not working at all, then the toxins from the break down of the various chemical process involved in keeping us alive will not be removed.
The toxins will remain in the body causing illness and death in a relatively short period of time.
When this happens the blood must be cleansed by artificial means.
Dialysis, using an external machine to ‘cleanse’ the blood is the next step. This process requires the creation of a ‘shunt’ which is created connecting an artery and a vein to be used for access to the circulatory system.
The process of dialysis greatly restricts a person’s activities of daily living. It’s a time consuming process that generally requires you to go to a dialysis center three days a week, up to eight hours at a time. The toxins are removed by spending an average six to eight hours at a time.
After dialysis patients often report they felt like they had the stuffing knocked out of them. The body has been depleted and unfortunately no man-made processes will ever work as well as God’s, so it takes time to return to your norm. Then by the time you begin to feel better it’s time to repeat the process again.
Am I Too Young to donate?
Many states allow people who are younger than 18 to register as organ donors.
You are legally able to decide from the age of 18, but some final input may be required from your parent or legal guardian.
So discuss your wish to become an organ donor with your family, and ask for their advice. Keep in mind that many children too, are in need of organ transplants.
Am I Too Old to Donate?
You are not too old to donate, just inform of your desire to do so and let the medical professionals make the decision whether or not you are able to do so.
Do not discount organ donation because you think you are too old as there is no defined cutoff age for donating organs. The decision to use your donation is based on strict medical criteria, not age.
The idea of donating your organs may be an unpleasant one to grapple with. I must admit that I was not enamored with the idea myself. As humans we do not want to contemplate our own demise and the connotations that this idea brings to mind are not pleasant ones. But the truth is that organ donation saves lives.
If they know I’m a donor, will they just let me die so they can have my organs?
Some people are under the misconception that their medical treatment may no longer be a priority if they become donors, the medical staff will make every effort to save your life as is within their power to do so.
When you are ill medical personnel are required by moral and legal code of ethics to make every available effort to save your life first.
You will be seen by a doctor whose expertise most closely matches your particular condition and who can and will give you the best care possible.
If you are unsure of, or uncomfortable with your faith’s position on organ donation, ask a member of your clergy.
Even if your organs are not used for living recipients, they can be used in science to further medical understanding of many disease processes thereby making a greater impact.
Don’t deny yourself from the chance to help someone else. Let the doctors decide at the time of your death whether your organs and tissues are suitable for transplantation.
Being a Living Donor
If you decide to become a living donor, i.e. giving one of your kidneys to someone while you are still living you will have to undergo extensive psychological testing to ensure you are not being coerced into doing so.
This ensures that you are aware of the risks associated with your decision. Doctors will also test to see if your kidneys are in good shape and whether you can live a healthy life with just one kidney.
It’s critically important to consider becoming an organ donor if you belong to an ethnic minority. Minorities like African Americans, Asians, Pacific Islanders, Native Americans, and Hispanics are more likely than Caucasians to have certain chronic conditions that affect the kidneys, heart, lung, pancreas and liver. Some examples of such diseases are; alcoholism, high blood pressure and diabetes.
Certain blood types are more prevalent in ethnic minority populations. Because matching blood type is usually necessary for transplants, the need for minority organ donors is a ‘dire need’.
How to Register to Become a Donor
Becoming a donor is easy. Here are a few ways to indicate your wishes:
- By registering on your State’s website.
- Have it placed on your driver’s license.
- Inform your close family members.
If you have a loved one who will make decisions in the event you cannot make them for yourself, discuss your expectations with them and ensure that they understand and will honor your wishes.
So now that you have some of the facts, can you see that being an organ donor can make a big difference? and not just to one person? Organ and tissue from one donor can save or at best improve as many as 75 lives. Also knowing that your loved one helped save or improve the lives of many others may bring you some comfort.
What are your thoughts, please comment below. I would really love to know.
Sources cited and questions:
- Kidney disease or transplant can be scary. Speak with a specialist who will answer your questions and listen to your concerns. (Tel:1-855-653-2273)
- https://www.kidney.org/nkfcares (for questions and resources)