Every Valentine’s Day, while most people are thinking about gifts like jewelry or flowers for their special loved ones, many people are also talking about National Organ Donor Day. And it’s the perfect day for it, too, because Valentine’s Day is all about love – and so is every selfless act of donating an organ.
At any given time, there are more than 124,000 people in the U.S. on a waiting list for someone to donate an organ, vital tissue, or eye that will save their life or restore their sight. And every ten minutes, the waiting list grows by another person in need of a life-saving donation.
Sadly, 18 people die every day while waiting for a transplant to be made available. On the other hand, 79 people per day do receive organ transplants and are able to enjoy an improved quality of life as a result.
In fact, by agreeing to donate your body after death to organ donation, you can save or improve up to 50 lives. The lives you save or prolong include people who need a wide range of organs or tissue, including:
- Heart valves
- Corneas and sclera of the eye
- Tendons, ligaments and cartilage
These organs and tissues have the power to repair people’s hearts, restore their sight, treat burns, and fix damaged connective tissue.
It’s easy to become an organ donor. In fact, approximately 100 million people, a little less than a third of the entire U.S. population, have registered as organ donors. One of the easiest ways to register is to fill out an organ donor card with your driver’s license. You can also sign up online at organdonor.gov.
For seniors and their families, organ donation is an important topic of discussion, and it’s best to have the conversation as early as possible. This is especially true if the senior has clear-cut wishes regarding what should be done with his or her remains. For many people, regardless of age, knowing that one’s organs and tissues can actually prolong someone else’s life, or improve quality of life for the recipient, is a comfort.
That said, while most major religions view organ donation positively, it is a deeply personal decision and no one should be pressured into being an organ donor if it conflicts with their beliefs and values.
So, start a conversation with your aging loved ones. It’s important to note that, even if your senior family member has already registered as an organ donor on their driver’s license, the next of kin will still be asked to provide consent when the time comes. That’s why family members need to have the discussion and be aware of their senior’s wishes, enabling them to make the right decision and feel confident about it.
Registering as an organ donor is a great way to leave a continuing legacy beyond one’s passing. And getting older doesn’t make anyone less viable as a donor. In fact, in 2016, one out of every three people who donated organs was over 50 years old, so you’re never too old to save a life through the gift of organ donation.