Musings of a Nightshift Nurse

April is Donate Life Month

April is Donate Life Month

Alright alright. Not the most uplifting topic, I know. But it can be. And I want to educate you on the importance and relevance of this topic, as well as encourage discussion between your family on the topic of…organ donation. Before you stop reading, PLEASE just hear me out. I understand this is a topic that most people don’t like to think about. But, it can be even more difficult when you’re faced with a decision down the road that you haven’t put any thought into. I have a lot of experience seeing this decision emotionally destroy families because it was something they had never talked about. And because of the lack of conversations about organ donation, thousands of lives are lost that could have been saved.

Lets start with some stats. More than 119,000 Americans are waiting for a life-saving transplant. Every ten minutes, someone is added to this list. And unfortunately, 8000 Americans a year (22/day) die waiting for a transplant. About 54% of Americans are registered organ donors. We need that percentage to go up. Are you in that 54%?

So here comes the truth. YOU….die. Yes, its true. You actually will die. Very weird to think about, I know. But it happens, and it happens to every one of us. Sometimes it will happen young, hopefully it happens when we’re older. But that’s not our decision to make. What is our decision, is what we do with our bodies after death, and how we choose to manage our bodies when we are hospitalized.

 

life sharing hospital San Diego
My hospital lights up in pretty blue and green lights for the month of April, in honor of Donate Life month 🙂

 

As an ICU nurse, I see death a lot. It’s never easy, and it’s always hard to comfort families during this difficult time. One thing you can do now to decrease that stress is to have a conversation about your end-of-life preferences. One of the biggest issues families face when a family member is dying, is that they never talked about what their preferences were. This is a conversation that should happen in the home, not in the ICU.

You think – Oh, I’ll just talk about those issues when the time comes. Well guess what. Majority of the time, nobody knows when they’re going to get sick! Or hit by a car. Or have a heart attack. Or fall off a cliff (cough). And if you’re unable to speak? Does your family know what you would want in that situation? Are you comfortable with a ventilator helping you breathe, a feeding tube in your stomach? CPR? (which FYI = hard chest compressions possibly breaking ribs and causing more complications if you survive). This is TOUGH STUFF! Stuff that no one normally thinks about. You need to contemplate what you would want if you do end up that sick. And if you don’t make it. I’m really not trying to scare you, I just want you to be able to make that choice, so your family doesn’t have to.

Okay, so if you’re still with me here…I promise it’s going to get more positive! I am writing this post as National Healthcare Decisions Week is April 16-22, in addition to Donate Life month being April. One more stat: 90% of people agree that discussing end-of-life decisions with family is important. 27% have actually done so. That means that 73% of people are leaving a major decision up in the air; which is so distressing to family members when the doctor asks them: “what would they have wanted?” And unfortunately, when family doesn’t know the patient’s choices, they usually opt out of organ donation, which could give life to others who do not have the diagnosis to survive without it.

Here’s some organ donation info:

  • ANYONE can potentially be an organ donor. It depends on your diagnosis and medical history at the time. Don’t let any past medical history keep you from registering. Register, and the physicians will decide at the appropriate time.
  • All major religions support organ donation as a compassionate choice.
  • Organ donation is free to the donor.
  • You can still have an open casket funeral.
  • Donation is only considered AFTER brain death is declared. A lot of people worry that your medical care will be different if you are a registered donor. Your life is the number one priority of medical staff when you are a patient. They will do everything and anything they can to keep you alive, registered donor or not. The conversation to donate is only an option and brought up AFTER you have been declared brain dead, which is irreversible. Nobody will give up on you just so they can get your organs. It’s not like that at all.

I hope all of my readers out there live long, happy and healthy lives. The truth is, all of us will die eventually. Do you want to just die, or live on through the most generous gift of all? Register to be a donor, and save up to 8 lives.

REGISTER HERE and watch this adorable video below.

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