Health writers never run out of topics for articles, but I like to choose ones that might be of real value to my readers. This one may be a bit edgy, though; I want to talk about organ donation. I had a friend years ago whose young, healthy son died in a car accident. I cannot fathom the pain of losing a child. It is, in fact, my greatest fear. When they approached her about organ donation she flatly refused and was incensed by the request. I can sympathize with all the emotions that went through her heart and mind, but, unfortunately, time is of the essence when it comes to harvesting organs. This time constraint often denies family members sufficient time to process their loss before they are approached to make the painful decision about donating their loved one’s organs. My friend could not feel compassion above the overwhelming grief when it came to making this decision. Everyone experiences and approaches grief resolution in their own way and time, but some are not ever able to do so. Such was my friend. Through God’s grace I have never had to make that gut-wrenching decision, but I know that my husband and I, and all four of our children, wish to be donors, and I would pray for the strength to carry out their wishes should the unspeakable happen.
According to https://www.organdonor.gov/statistics-stories/statistics.html, as of September 2020, 109,000 people were on the transplant list. There are nine organs that can currently be transplanted: kidneys, pancreas, liver, heart, lung, intestine, face, and hand. Skin and eyes can also be donated, skin being an organ itself. By far, however, the greatest need for organs is the kidney. Unless it is a directed donation, such as a donated organ to a matching recipient like a family member, organs are difficult to come by because an unexpected tragedy must occur for one to become available. People with chronic illnesses are not acceptable donors, so, paradoxically, one family’s grief is another family’s answered prayer or granted wish. A maze of emotions is born with each sudden, accidental end to a life.
This complex set of emotions is one reason that everyone should discuss the uncomfortable subject of organ donation with members of their families ahead of time. Include it in a living will, put it with your driver’s license, or at the very least, make your wishes known verbally to everyone, regardless of what those wishes are. The worst time to make decisions is when you are forced to make them in the heat of emotions. You are not a horrible person if you cannot accept this, but by agreeing to donation, you are giving a chance at life to someone else. It may help to put yourself in the other family’s shoes. If it was your loved one waiting for an organ and another family was grieving the loss of theirs, what would you want them to do? I am reminded of the bumper sticker that says: “Don’t take your organs to heaven; heaven knows we need them here”.