What is organ donation?
You may have heard of organ donation now and then, but do you really know what it means? You may also have a preconceived notion about what it means to donate organs. For example, a lot of people think that whenever and however they die, their organs can be donated. That is not true. Read on to get all the details.
Organ donation is the process of Retrieving or Procuring an organ from a live or deceased person known as a DONOR. The process of recovering organs is called HARVESTING. This organ is transplanted into the RECEPIENT who is in need of that organ.
There are two types of organ donation – Live Donation & Deceased or Cadaver Donation.
Live Donation is from a healthy and living person. This can only be done in the case of a liver or a kidney (because the liver can grow back to its normal size, and a donor can survive on one kidney). So if a near relative of yours needs a liver or a kidney, anyone in the immediate family can donate to them.
When we talk about pledging your organs or about organ donation, we are talking about Deceased organ donation or cadaver organ donation. This is organ donation from a person who has been declared brain dead by a team of authorized doctors at a hospital. A person is said to be brain dead when there is an irreversible loss of consciousness, absence of brain stem reflexes and no spontaneous respiration.
What is Brain death and how it is related to organ donation?
A brain death results from a severe irreversible injury to the brain or hemorrhage which causes all the brain activity to stop. All areas of the brain are damaged and no longer function due to which a person cannot sustain his/her own life, but vital body functions may be maintained by an artificial support system. This maintains circulation to vital organs long enough to facilitate organ donation. Patients classified as brain dead can have their organs surgically removed for organ donation.
A brain dead person has absolutely no chance of recovering. Brain death is a form of death and is irreversible. To know more about Brain Death-follow this link and watch the short and easy to understand film on What is Brain Death?
Once Brain Death has been declared, you are dead – BUT – your organs are still alive because they have been kept alive through artificial means.
This means that if a person dies at home or anywhere else, and their heart stops beating, they cannot donate their vital organs. The organs of a person who has died a cardiac death (as opposed to brain death) will die within minutes of the heart stopping.
Therefore – The only time you can donate your vital organs is if you are in hospital and have been declared brain dead.
In case of a cardiac death it is possible to donate your corneas and tissues such as bones, skin, veins, blood stem cells, blood and platelets, tendons, ligaments, heart valves, cartilage and even your body.
While the incidence of brain death is obviously less common that cardiac death, it is important to remember that only if everyone is aware about when and how they can donate organs, will donations actually happen in hospitals.
Unfortunately, mostly due to unawareness and prejudices, there is a huge shortage of organs that are needed for transplants. It has been seen in umpteen situations that relatives are hesitant and unwilling to donate the organs of their loved ones, who have been declared brain dead. Normally the transplant coordinator will approach the relatives with information about organ donation and how even in their time of loss, they can actually help another person live. It is tough for the relatives at this point to make a decision especially if they are not familiar with the concept of organ donation
This is the main reason why it is important for the general public to know about organ donation, before they are suddenly faced with the possibility at some point in their lives.
The total number of brain deaths due to accidents is nearly 1.5 lakhs annually. Other causes of brain death would potentially add many more numbers. There is a need of 2 lakh kidneys, 50,000 hearts and 50,000 livers for transplantation every year. Even if 5-10% of all brain deaths are harvested properly for organ donation, there would be no requirement for a living person to donate organs. One person dies of kidney failure every 5 minutes. This amounts to roughly 290 deaths every day due to kidney failure. These numbers suggest that with adequate systems in place, people succumbing to accident-prone injuries could meet a major portion of the demand.
What happens once brain death is declared?
Organ donations require prior consent from the potential donor or the donor’s family. In India, according to the Transplantation of Human Organs Act 1994, the next of kin of the patient will decide whether to donate their organs.
In this situation, the transplant coordinator of the hospital will make the family aware of their patient’s condition and give them the option of donating organs and tissues. The family may or may not agree and can, till the last minute before retrieval, change their mind about donating. It has been noted that a lot of families, even in the face of devastating loss, agree to organ donation to save the lives of others. For them, it is the only good thing that could come out of the death of a loved one, and for this reason alone, it is everyone’s absolute right to be asked if they want to donate.
Organs from deceased donors are matched with different recipients’ blood group and size, offered to the first patient on the waiting list, and if suitable, transplanted.
Who can donate?
Almost anyone of nearly any age and average health can donate an organ. Although anyone who has cancer, HIV or disease-causing bacteria in the bloodstream or body tissues is usually exempt from donation, this is not always the rule.
Decisions about an organ’s usability are made at the donor’s time of death or, in the case of living donors, in the process leading to donation.
Medical Science has made tremendous progress in recent times in the field of transplant surgeries and operations, with organ donation from one person after brain death capable of saving up to 9 lives and improving the lives of many others.
However, due to the prevalence of myths surrounding brain death and the lack of awareness in India, majority of people do not take up this noble cause for the benefit of others.
Which organ can be donated?
Let’s take a closer look at the different organs that can be donated. There are six organs that can be donated and transplanted :
1. Kidney — The functioning lifespan of a transplanted kidney is about nine years. Of all organs, kidneys are most in demand and the most frequently donated. Most diseases that affect the kidneys affect both at the same time, so a living donor is generally not at a greater health risk with only one kidney.
2. Liver — The liver is necessary for vitamin storage, removing waste from blood and digestion. The liver is the only organ that can grow cells in order to regenerate itself. A liver can actually be split in two and transplanted into two different people. A living person can have a portion of the liver removed, and the remaining portion will regenerate to almost its full previous size.
3. Heart — A heart will beat about 2.5 billion times in the course of an average lifetime. Once removed from the donor’s body, a heart can only survive for about four hours.
4. Lungs — Single or double-lung transplants can be performed. Additionally, living donors can donate a single lobe from the lungs, though it will not regenerate.
5. Pancreas — It’s possible to make a living donation of a portion of the pancreas and still retain pancreas functionality.
6. Intestine — Although quite rare, a living donor can donate a portion of the intestine.
In addition to organs, you can also donate tissue, blood stem cells, blood and platelets, and even your body.
Tissues : It is composed of layers of cells that function together to serve a specific purpose. It must be donated within 24 hours of death.
Cornea: One of the most commonly transplanted tissues each year is the cornea. It is a transparent covering over the eye — is the eye’s primary focusing component. A cornea transplant restores sight to recipients blinded by an accident, infection or disease. Corneas can be transplanted whole or in parts and require no anti-rejection drugs in the recipient. Corneas from a 75-year-old donor are just as effective as younger corneas.
Bones: Donated bones can be used to replace cancerous bones in the arm or leg in lieu of amputation.
Skin: Among its many uses, skin can be used in grafts for burn victims or for post-mastectomy breast reconstruction.
Veins: Donated veins are used in cardiac bypass surgery.
Other donated tissue includes tendons, ligaments, heart valves and cartilage.
How to pledge your organs and become a donor.
At the moment in India, legally, it is the next of kin of the donor who will decide whether to donate their organs or not. Even if you have pledged your organs, no donation will happen unless the next of kin gives the go ahead. Therefore when you do register anywhere to be an organ donor, it’s very important that you discuss your wish to donate with your family. This is to enable your family to carry out your wishes in case the need arises.
Why it is good to donate your Organs
As per the last stastical data, In india we have just 1 person per million who donates organs. This was at a dismal figure of 1 Person per 20 million people. We at solefest by spreading the awareness about organ donation are trying to improve the ratio. There are lakhs of people waiting to see the world in which we could have been the helping hand instead of taking our eyes with us. Each eye donated will help one more soul to see the beautiful world that we reside in.
Solefest in its first edition was successful in collecting 117 Pledge form its runners. We at solefest intend to carry this humanitarian work forward and believe that this movement of ours will bring a sea change view regarding organ donation