News | Published July 10, 2017 | Written by Jacqueline Hahn, RN, BS, CPUR, CCM, director, case management, Mount Nittany Medical Center

Giving the gift of life: The importance of organ donation

Jacqueline Hahn, RN, BS, CPUR, CCM, director, case management, Mount Nittany Medical Center

Healthy organs aren’t easy to come by. As of January 2017, there were approximately 122,000 people in the U.S. on waiting lists for organs, more than 8,400 of them in Pennsylvania alone. Each organ has its own waiting list, but the lists share a common characteristic – there are far more organs needed than are available.

Though many lives are saved through organ donation, many people die while waiting on a donation list. On average, about 110 people are added to an organ waiting list every day, and while 21 people die each day waiting for an organ, 78 people do receive a life-saving organ transplant and thousands more receive cornea and tissue transplants. These extraordinary gifts were generously donated by ordinary people, just like you, who took a few minutes to register to become an organ donor. Each organ donor and save up to eight lives and each tissue donor can enhance the quality of life for up to 50 people (haponline.org).

Mount Nittany Medical Center is in its fourth year of participation in the Hospital Association of PA (HAP) - Donate Life Hospital Challenge. We kicked off our awareness campaign in April with the raising of the Gift of Life flag. Although the HAP campaign runs through August 31, our Gift of Life team works diligently all year long to educate our staff, patients and community on the importance of organ donation.

While organs deteriorate over a lifetime along with the rest of your body, disease or genetics may ultimately destroy one specific organ while the rest of your body remains relatively healthy. Depending on which organ is failing, there are many life-sustaining measures short of transplantation that can be taken to improve your health. For instance, dialysis helps a person with damaged kidneys. However, the rest of the body is negatively affected by these measures. A person on dialysis has a higher risk of cardiovascular disease because the process can reduce the amount of antioxidants that normally fight toxins within the body. In many cases, the best (and sometimes the only) answer is to replace the damaged organ with a healthy one.

Surprisingly, 95 percent of Pennsylvanians say they support organ donation, yet only 46 percent are actually registered as donors. Registering to become a donor gives those waiting a second chance.  It’s easy to add the donor designation to your driver’s license or state ID. You can do this at your local driver’s center, or by visiting dmv.pa.gov and selecting the Pennsylvania Donate Life option. You can also visit Donors1.org and register from the home page. Additional information on organ donation can be found at donatelifepa.org. Five minutes of your day could positively impact the lives of many. Please consider becoming an organ donor today.

Jacqueline Hahn, RN, is the director of case management for Mount Nittany Medical Center.

This article originally appeared in the Centre Daily Times