Living Well

The Lasting Impact of Organ and Tissue Donations

Dan Kiff, Director of Trauma Services at UMC
The Lasting Impact of Organ and Tissue Donations

When a special flag flies on the University Medical Center campus, it signifies that someone has chosen to leave a lasting, life-saving legacy.

LOPA (Louisiana Organ Procurement Agency) provides the National Donate Life Flag which is raised by LOPA and University Medical Center staff near the corner of Canal and Galvez streets to recognize those who have given the gift of life by being an organ donor. Each donor can save the lives of up to nine people.

As we celebrate Valentine’s Day, a day when giving hearts is so precious, we also observe National Donor Day, dedicated to raising awareness of the importance of organ, tissue and eye donations. We also recognize those who have given the gift of donation, have received a donation, are currently waiting or did not receive an organ in time.

As of February 12, 2019, there have been 1,584 donors in the United States.

What it Means to be a Donor

Signing up as an organ, tissue, and eye donor means that you have made the decision to donate your organs, eyes, and tissues at the time of your death that will benefit so many others who need such donations. Being a donor means that you can cause an impact and potentially become someone’s hero even after your death.

How to Become a Donor

Louisiana has one of the oldest donor registries in the United States and more than 2.5 million people have made the decision to be a donor in the state.

Registering to be a donor is easy. You can register at the nearest Office of Motor Vehicles where a little red heart will be placed on your license or state identification card. This information is then securely sent over to the LOPA, which houses and maintains the Louisiana registry. You can also register online at Donate Life LA. You only have to register your decision once, in either the Louisiana or national registry.

One of the biggest misconceptions we hear in the community, is “I’m too sick or too old to donate” and many people remove themselves from the registry prematurely. Organ donation has different criteria than blood donation or bone marrow donation, so we encourage everyone to leave themselves in the donor registry and let medical professionals determine your suitability.

At the time of your death, LOPA will assess if you might be able to donate and look to see if you are in the state and national registry.

The registry is legal consent for donation, but it is important to let your family or medical power of attorney know your wishes because they will have to answer some questions about your medical history before you can become a donor.

More than 2000 people in Louisiana are waiting for their second chance at life through organ donation. Thousands more benefit from the gifts of tissue and eye donation. Even medical research can benefit through the gift of donation for research. At a glance UNOS states that 113,849 people are currently on the waiting list for a lifesaving organ transplant and 3,180 transplants have been performed this year alone.

University Medical Center was able to save 91 lives through organ donation last year. Our Level 1 Trauma Center believes in the mission of organ donation and supports our patients’ choices on giving the gift of life. All too often, healthcare professionals see tragic events in people’s lives and the gift of a donation is something good we see come from such tragedies, which makes our efforts even more meaningful.

Dan Kiff is the Director of Trauma services at University Medical Center