A sobering fact of life is that many of us at some point may need an organ transplant. If you are among the pool of people needing such a procedure, you are not alone. In the U.S., 85,000 men, women and children are awaiting organ transplants.
Organ transplants are far more common than many people realize, although they are not widely publicized for sake of privacy and HIPPA compliance. Some donor recipients, however, put themselves out there as advocates. One is the late Larry Hagman, otherwise known as J.R. Ewing from the long-running network series “Dallas.” Hagman recently passed away, but he was the recipient of a liver transplant, which afforded him an extra 17 years of life. He, like so many Americans have found new life due to the marvels of medicine – and the selflessness of donors and their families.
Additional “celebrity” transplant recipients might surprise you: Mickey Mantle (liver), film director Robert Altman (heart), former Vice President Dick Cheney (heart), singer Natalie Cole (kidney), former NBA star Sean Elliott (kidney), the late Steve Jobs (kidney) and comedian George Lopez (a kidney that was donated by his wife).
One of the first steps when applying for an organ transplant is registering with the PPTN/ UNOS national transplant waiting list. In order to do so, you must obtain a physician’s orders and complete a thorough physical evaluation to determine your candidacy. You will also need to provide information to determine the likelihood of finding a match and your proximity to a certified transplant hospital (there are approximately 200 in the country).
Perhaps the most important virtue when awaiting a transplant is patience. The waiting period for a transplant can vary based on the organ required and a patient’s blood type, body size, stage of disease and overall health. For example, patients awaiting kidneys can often wait up to five years for a transplant opportunity.
Worthy of mention: There’s one part of the transplant process that doesn’t require a lengthy waiting period – becoming an organ donor. Many people decide to donate organs or tissue to family members while still living, while a majority of donors elect to donate organs after their deaths.
Perhaps it’s the season to be thinking about gifts, but I can think of no finer gift to receive or give.