I am the recipient of two heart transplants. My second was last year and now that I’m healthier, I spend much of my free time giving speeches, doing interviews, and meeting with people in order to educate others about heart disease and organ donation.
I had my first transplant when I was six months old, back in 1992 when transplants were new and nobody was sure what would happen 10 years down the road. In fact, 10 years later, my body rejected my heart. After two years of intense treatments, hospital stays, and every other thing the doctors could do, they decided to put me on a list for a second transplant.
Last summer, because someone was kind enough to be an organ donor, another heart was given to me. It is because of that generous person and his or her family that I’m alive to write this. So, based on my life, I endorse the miracle of organ donation.
There are, however, some good people who do not support organ donation. They are not actively against it, they just say no because of their lack of understanding. Some of the reasons people decide against being a donor is they claim medical professionals will not work as hard to save their life. Not only is there no evidence of this, but it also goes against the Hippocratic oath. It’s rare for a doctor even to know if a person is a donor as they perform emergency care.
Some claim that organ donation is against their religion, but it is actually consistent with the beliefs of most denominations including Christianity and most branches of Judaism.
When people are in the hospital facing the death of a loved one, they may be asked to consider donation and it is easier to say no than to deal with anything other than their terrible loss. This is why people need to think about donating before they’re dealing with a crisis. They must understand that donations save thousands of lives each year and one person can provide eight critical organs - heart, lungs, kidneys, liver, pancreas, and intestine. That’s eight lives saved. They must understand that one tissue donor can also enhance dozens more lives with the incredible gift of eyes, bones, skin, heart valves, tendons and veins that fight infections in burn victims, prevent loss of limbs, and restore eyesight. They need to know that organs are donated from only 42 percent of potential donors, which works out to about 5,000 donors each year, while over 60,000 Americans are on waiting lists for organs.
More resources need to be devoted to educating the public on the need for organ donors. When was the last time you saw a billboard promoting organ donation? How about a commercial on TV or the radio? Probably never. So, due to a lack of knowledge, the most natural answer is no. That’s why I believe in educating the younger crowd - if teens say yes now, there’s a good chance they’ll say yes the rest of their life.
I hope this article can help this cause that has saved my life twice. Organ donation is clearly important - just ask my family, friends, doctors and nurses. To everyone considering donating remember this: “Don’t take your organs to Heaven; Heaven knows we need them here!”
This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.