Public Health in the National News – The statistics are sobering: 118,288 people are waiting for an organ as of June 10, 2013; 18 people die each day waiting for an organ. The statistics are also hopeful: 1 organ donor can save up to 8 lives; 1 eye and tissue donor can enhance the lives of as many as 50 people. The percentage of transplant recipients who are still living 5 years after transplant ranges from 54.4% for lung transplants to 74.9% for heart transplants.
Anyone, regardless of age or medical history, can sign up to be a donor. Every state provides access to a donor registry where its residents can indicate their donation decisions. When matching donor organs to recipients, the computerized matching system considers issues such as the severity of illness, blood type, time spent waiting, other important medical information, and geographic location.
Behind the facts are the people. One member of the UNMC College of Public Health (COPH) family has firsthand experience with organ donation. Fran Neff’s husband, Leonard, was diagnosed with end stage renal disease while they were dating. Fran is an office associate in the UNMC COPH Office of the Dean. Her husband’s kidney disease-related health issues have been a part of their daily lives. Leonard has had 3 cadaveric kidney transplants since 1989, with the third one in August 2012. Fran says, “It’s humbling to know that with the joy and happiness of each transplant Leonard has received there is sorrow too, a person has died and given the ultimate sacrifice for him—the gift of life.”
Fran points out that a common misunderstanding is thinking organ transplantation is a cure and not just a temporary form of treatment for the disease. All transplant patients take immune suppressant drugs and possibly steroids for the life of the transplanted organ. The drugs can cost from $2,000 to $4,000 a month and carry serious side effects. In addition, the patient undergoes considerable lab work. “You’re never far from that ‘leash’ to the Diagnostic Center and the transplant team,” Fran says.
When asked what one thing is most important for readers of The GroundBreaker to know, Fran says “Awareness! Even with all of the medical miracles we have, people continue to die every day waiting for a transplant. I encourage you to become an organ and tissue donor. Talk with your family and let them know your wishes now so there are no last minute struggles concerning your donation wishes.
US Department of Health and Human Services (June 6, 2013). Retrieved from http://organdonor.gov/index.html