It comprises a small part of the words and symbols on my driver’s license, but it could mean something significant for someone someday. Right under my photo (not my best shot but not my worst either) is a little heart with a “Y” in it. That signifies that I am an organ donor.
I also carry in my wallet a card that I signed on June 20, 1999, witnessed by my mother and sister, who also signed it, that states I am an organ donor. I wrote “any organs and tissues” as those I am wiling to donate in the event of my death.
I might joke that nobody would want any of my organs or tissues, but I know better. I know that many organs and tissues have value even after we’re not using them anymore.
A gift that costs you nothing when you die could mean new life for someone else.
One donor can save up to eight lives and improve the lives of up to 50 individuals.
Here are some stats from organdonor.gov:
• Eight of the major organs can be transplanted, along with faces and hands, corneas and tissues such as bones, bone marrow, skin, and heart valves.
• Donors do not have to be dead to give kidneys, lungs, a portion of the liver and some other organs. Remember how our own San Luis Valley native Frank Mestas, Jr. “Frankie,” donated a kidney to an 18-year-old girl with Alport Syndrome? He and other living donors are definitely heroes in my view and by those whose lives they have changed forever.
• Of course we can donate blood throughout our lives, and bone marrow can also be donated while we are still alive. We might be the perfect match for someone who desperately needs that tissue or blood to survive.
• Corneas can be recovered several hours after death and stored. They can literally give sight to the recipients, and the donor and recipient do not have to “match,” as with organ transplants. It doesn’t matter what color your eye is, your blood type or age. Your corneas could give someone renewed vision. Since 1961 more than 1.7 million people have received new sight through corneal transplants.
• Tissues an also be donated at death, and although they have to be recovered within 24 hours they can be processed and stored for a period of time afterwards. Tissues can range from skin to cartilage and tendons.
• Even hands and faces can be transplanted, which kind of sounds gross and like a weird sci fi movie plot, but since January of last year, 200 VCA (vascularized composite allograft) organ transplants have been performed around the world. The first hand transplant was performed in 2005 and the first face transplant in 2007.
Although most know February 14 as Valentine’s Day, it was also National Donor Day, which like Valentine’s Day can be a day of love, not just for people you know but people you may never meet this side of heaven.