At Stanford Blood Center (SBC), most are aware that we collect blood products to supply to our hospital partners. But many might not know that we also have a medical team working in our Histocompatibility, Immunogenetics, and Disease Profiling Laboratory (HIDPL) to perform cutting-edge histocompatibility and genetic testing, which is used to get the most precise match for a bone marrow, stem cell, or solid organ transplantation. Organ transplants save 33,600 lives in 2016, so it’s clear that this is incredibly important work; however, there are still not enough organ donations in the United States each year to meet the demand. That’s why in April we celebrate National Donate Life Month (NDLM), sponsored by Donate Life America, to raise awareness of this significant need.
There are two types of organ and tissue donations. A living donation transplant may be an option if the patient requires transplantation of a kidney, partial liver, partial lung, or tissue donation of skin, marrow, blood, or bone. Often, living donations are done by close friends or family, but im some cases a stranger may agree to be a donor for altruistic reasons.
More common is a deceased donor transplant. Last time you were at the DMV, you may have signed up to be an organ donor and were given a little pink dot to put on your driver’s license or ID. Organs eligible for donation after death include the heart, two lungs, liver, pancreas, two kidneys, and intestines…donation after death can save up to eight lives.
According to the Organ Procurement and Transplantation Network (OPTN), who operates the national database of patients in the U.S. waiting for a transplant, close to 115,000 people are in need of a lifesaving organ at this moment, and 8,000 people die each year waiting for a transplant. This is no surprise considering that 95% of Americans are in favor of being a donor, but only 54% are registered.
It can be difficult to think about one’s own mortality, but it helps to remember that becoming and organ donor can save the life of another. Using Maya Angelou’s profound words, Donate Life America asks you to “[be] a rainbow in someone else’s cloud,” and sign up to be an organ and tissue donor today.