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On Valentine's Day, Give the Gift of Life

National Donor Day on Feb. 14 Promotes Organ and Tissue Donor Registration

Loving gestures will be plentiful on Valentine's Day, but few can compare to giving someone the gift of life. Since 1998, Americans have observed two special occasions on February 14 -- Valentine's Day and National Donor Day, when adults across the country can make the decision to give the gift of life by filling out an organ and tissue donation card, joining the National Registry of potential volunteer marrow and blood stem cell donors, learning how to donate their baby's umbilical cord blood stem cells, or donating their blood.

In the United States today, nearly 95,000 people are in need of an organ transplant, approximately 35,000 children and adults have live-threatening blood diseases that could be treated by a marrow/blood stem cell or cord blood transplant, and every two seconds someone needs blood. Their greatest hope is that a compatible organ, tissue or blood donation will become available for them. To increase that likelihood in our local community, Montefiore Medical Center and the New York Organ Donor Network have collaborated for the past two years on an educational program designed specifically for the Bronx, where more than 1,100 residents are on the organ transplant waiting list. Known as the Montefiore Organ and Tissue Donation Initiative, the program is designed to increase awareness among the medical center's 16,000 associates and the 1.4 million residents of the Bronx of the need to increase organ and tissue donation. It is also aimed at increasing enrollments on the New York State Donate Life Registry, specifically the number of organ and tissue donors in the Bronx. 

Dispelling common misconceptions about organ and tissue donation is a top priority when the program's representatives are out speaking to local residents and associates, according to Leo Trevino, MPA, manager, Organ and Tissue Donation at Montefiore.  "One of our primary goals is to help people understand that we are all potential organ and tissue donors, and that their decision to register as a donor may save someone's life one day," he said. "We also teach individuals about the process of donating. For instance, some fear that if they register as organ and tissue donors and are then hospitalized themselves, doctors won't treat them as aggressively. In reality, the doctors who care for you are not involved in procuring organs and tissues or determining which patients receive donated organs and tissues.  Their job is to provide you with the best care possible."

How to Become a Donor

Trevino shared his responses to the following questions he is frequently asked by people who are interested in registering as donors:

How can I document my decision to be a donor? 

You can enroll in the New York State Donate Life Organ/Tissue Donor Registry maintained by the State Department of Health.

I have diabetes and/or high blood pressure. Can I be a donor

Yes, it maybe possible.  However, this decision can only be made at the time of your death.  Sign unto the "Donate Life" Registry and share your decision with your family.  Tissue donation is also an option.

What are the most commonly donated organs and tissues? 

The liver, heart, lungs or heart/lung, kidneys, pancreas, intestine, corneas, bone, skin and heart for valves are some of the organs and tissues that can be donated.

I am in good health and would like to donate one of my kidneys to someone who needs it.  Can I get paid for this? 

No, in the United States it is illegal to receive or pay money for organs and tissues.  All costs for transplant-related services are paid by insurance companies, individuals or the federal government.

I'm 60 years old.  Am I too old to be a donor? 

No matter what your age, you should sign up on the donor registry and tell your family your want to be a door when you die.  The appropriate medical specialist will make a decision when the time comes.  Remember: you are never too old to be a tissue donor.

Will my family be charged for the cost of organ or tissue recovery? 

No. All costs associated with organ or tissue recovery will be the responsibility of the recovery organizations.

Enroll Today

Signing up to be an organ and tissue donor is easy.  All you have to do is:

  •-         Let your family members know that you want to be an organ and tissue donor.

•-         Designate yourself as an organ and tissue donor when you get or renew your driver's license.

•-         Enroll in the New York State "Donate Life" Registry by calling Leo Trevino at the Montefiore Organ and Tissue Donation Initiative at 718-798-4285. 

To learn more about becoming a donor go to www.donatelifeny.org.

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