LOCAL VOICES: Give life

By Cherie Spragg, vice president of nursing at Fisher-Titus Medical Center. Organ donation is a pers
Sandusky Register Staff
May 24, 2010

By Cherie Spragg, vice president of nursing at Fisher-Titus Medical Center.

Organ donation is a personal decision that affects many lives. On any given day in Ohio, almost 3,000 people are waiting for an organ transplant. Unfortunately, every four days someone in Ohio dies while waiting for a life-saving organ transplant. People of all ages and medical conditions can consider themselves potential organ donors.

The Ohio Donor Registry allows individuals to make their wishes known at the time they obtain or renew their driver license. It is a simple question: Do you want to make an anatomical gift?If you say yes, your information is maintained in the registry and accessed by the recovery agency at the time of your death to confirm your identity and your wishes.

When a patient dies, it is an emotional time at the hospital. If you are an organ donor, it's important for you to discuss your wishes with your family in advance. Shortly following your death, an organ donor requester, which is a trained person, will contact your family member to discuss your wishes. This phone call usually comes a few hours after the death of the potential organ donor. The organ donor requester will work with your family member to help them through the donation process and help them feel at peace with your decision.

Here are some tips to follow from LifeBanc of Cleveland when talking about your choice to be an organ and tissue donor with your family.

-- Tell your family they are an important part of a personal decision that you want to share.

-- Tell them why you want to be a donor -- that it's consistent with your values and it feels like the right thing for you to do.

-- Tell them how one donor can potentially save or help 50 others.

-- Explain your religion supports donation. If they are doubtful, ask them to speak with their spiritual leader.

-- Remind your family that donation is a gift and there is no cost to the donor's family or estate. Donation should not interfere with funeral arrangements and an open casket funeral is possible.

If you decide to be an organ donor or your family decided for you, the quality of care provided will not be affected.

Most people think of organ donation as heart, liver, lungs, etc., but eyes for corneal transplants are one of the more common types of donations at a community hospital. Almost all patients are able to be eye donors. Eyes are used for transplant, research and for teaching purposes. Bone and tissue are frequently recovered.

Donation of major organs occurs after a patient is considered brain dead. Brain death happens when the brain is damaged by a severe head injury, stroke or tumor, or if the blood supply to the brain is stopped and it can no longer oversee the body's functions. Such patients are supported by a ventilator until special tests are done to confirm brain death. Throughout this, the nursing staff will continue to care for patient with respect and dignity.

Family members of a patient who donates a loved one's organs have a great feeling of satisfaction that something good can come out of their loss and the nursing staff takes great pride in assisting with this life-saving process.