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August is National Minority Donor Awareness Month | Community Spirit

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August is National Minority Donor Awareness Month

Today in the U.S., there are more than 86 million registered organ, eye, and tissue donors who have made the decision to improve and even give life to others. In Georgia, 3,487,019 individuals are registered organ donors. However, more than 100,000 individuals still die each year awaiting a life-saving organ. Some of the reasons for this disparity lie in the complexities of the qualifications required to be a transplant donor. Not every designated donor is eligible to donate organs at the time of death. There are three types of donation that can occur: organ, tissue, and corneal donation.

To be an organ donor, organs must be oxygenated until they are recovered for transplant to the desired recipient. Only after all life-saving efforts have been exhausted, and the person has been pronounced brain dead, is the possibility of donation considered. The state organ registry is checked to ensure that the individual was registered for donation. In cases where the person was not a registered organ donor, the legally authorized representative is consulted to authorize donation. If the decision is reached in favor of donation, the family is requested to provide a social and medical history to determine if transplantation is appropriate. At this stage, a donation professional then makes the decision of which recipients on the transplant waiting list can receive these organs based on donor characteristics.

The amount of time a person spends on the national waiting list is dependent upon the organ required, blood type, and the degree of urgency of need for the particular organ. The average expected waiting time for: a heart is 8 months; a liver is 8-15; a lung is 15-24 months; and a kidney 3-5 years.

Tissue donation can occur from almost any deceased person. The local tissue recovery organization is notified by the hospital or medical examiner of the funeral home that death has occurred. The criteria for donor registry is searched to determine if the individual is listed as an organ donor. The legally authorized representative is contacted to authorize donation if appropriate. Tissue recovery must occur within 24 hours of death. Tissue, unlike organs, can be stored for an extended time period prior to use once recovered. This tissue is used for burn victims, in ligament repairs, and in bone replacement cases.

Cornea donation can also occur in most deceased individuals. The eye bank is contacted once an individual has been pronounced dead and initial criteria for donation has been met. The registry is verified for donor status or a representative for the individual is contacted to authorize donation.

The eye bank will attempt to match the cornea to a recipient close to the age of the donor to help ensure the cornea lasts until the recipient’s death. Corneal transplant must occur within 14 days of recovery from the donor.

One tissue donor-including bone, skin, veins, heart, valves, and corneas- can donate organs to 50 individuals. Donate life!


Adapted from National Donor Designation 2010 Report Card from Donate Life America.