Everyday superheroes walk among us, holding the key to potentially saving up to 75 lives with one benevolent act. And while being a superhero is never easy, it is a tremendous badge of honor that anyone can wear by making the choice to be an organ donor.
You see, superheroes are never told exactly what their mission will be — with one very conscious choice, they promise to protect their communities, never knowing if their service will ever be called. And if it is, they are prepared to selflessly swoop in with their miraculous, life-saving abilities.
Organ donation is just that. It is making an important life decision, that while difficult to think about, could provide the most generous gift of all: life to others in need.
Kristine Neal, manager of public relations for the TransLife Organ and Tissue Donor Program, talks more about organ donation, explaining steps to take to register as a donor.
The Impact of Organ Donation
“Last year, more than 36,000 lives were saved due to the generosity of organ donors, which is a 20 percent increase over the last five years — we are seeing organ waiting lists go down because more people are registering and sharing their wishes with their loved ones, and as a result, there are more lives being saved,” shares Neal.
“If you told me that there was no one on the waiting list and I didn’t have a job anymore, I would go out dancing because it would mean that no one was in need anymore – that’s the hope,” says Neal.
But, the work continues. “There are more than 117,000 children and adults that continue to wait for this gift of life,” states Neal. For this reason, TransLife works to educate nearly four million people to inspire more heroes among us to consider making this important choice.
And this work is so important. According to national research conducted by Donate Life America, more than 90 percent of Americans support donation but less than half know the steps necessary to designate their wishes. That said, Neal explains what to do.
Organ Donor Process
“TransLife is involved in the entire organ donation process, from advocating for organ donation designation to facilitating the organ donation process — we see the impact that organ donation has on the lives of both donor and recipient families firsthand,” shares Neal.
She explains that many families impacted by organ donation become advocates of the process, joining forces with TransLife to share their stories and the facts. “There are many misconceptions about organ donation, so the first step is to learn more, then designate your wishes and communicate it with your family,” explains Neal.
“Our goal is to educate the community and encourage people to start a positive conversation about organ donation,” says Neal. “We want families to be prepared knowing their loved one’s wishes, should they ever be faced with the circumstances surrounding difficult end of life decisions in the hospital,” she continues. With that, much of her outreach focuses on communicating the facts about the donation process.
Here are a few:
- Organ donors receive the same quality of health care when admitted to the hospital; organ donation is only a consideration after all life-saving efforts have been exhausted.
- Everyone, regardless of age or medical condition, is urged to join the Florida Donor Registry. At the time of death, a person’s eligibility to become an organ, eye and tissue donor will be determined by medical professionals.
- All major eastern and western religions either fully endorse donation as an act of human benevolence in keeping with religious doctrine or leave the decision up to the individual.
- The donation of organs, eye or tissue will not disfigure the body or interfere with an open-casket funeral, should you desire one.
- Costs related to organ, eye and tissue donation will be covered by the donor programs. You or your family will not be financially responsible for any aspect of the donation process.
“If you decide to become an organ donor, designate your wishes by joining Florida's Organ & Tissue Donor Registry,” advises Neal. “You can easily do this by visiting Donate Life Florida or signing up at your local DMV,” she continues.
Since 88 percent of organ donors sign up when they get their licenses, much of Neal’s work is dedicated to educating driver license issuing employees so they can help inform the public.
Regardless of whether or not you decide to be an organ donor, it’s important to share your end of life decisions with your loved ones, especially your designated health care surrogate.
“Communicating with your family about organ donation is one of the most important things you can do,” explains Neal. “It’s not an easy conversation to have, but your family members will rest assured knowing your wishes,” she adds. If you don’t talk about it and an unexpected life-threatening event occurs, it is a much more challenging situation for families to navigate.
When asked about her experiences with families, Neal shares the personal impact organ donation has had on her. “I have had families that have been a part of our TransLife family for over 20 years after the loss of a loved one —a 16-year old boy who saved four lives — seeing a family continue sharing their son’s legacy all these years later — these moments are quite awe inspiring,” shares Neal.
“People who have received transplants did so because someone made an altruistic decision, which is a very personal decision that we strive to support,” concludes Neal.
If you’re interested in becoming an everyday superhero through organ donation, visit Donate Life Florida or TransLife today.