The importance of organ donation from many points of view

Story and gallery by HANNAH COOK

It’s a choice that can save a life.

Many people in this world don’t know the importance of organ donation. They don’t understand how many people are affected by just one organ that is donated.

For Bob Daniels, receiving an organ would be a second chance at life. A chance to attend his son’s wedding. A chance to be a grandpa.

Due to genetic failure, Daniels is currently waitlisted for a kidney and has been waitlisted for one year. Daniels lives in South Weber, Utah, and is currently working for the railroad to continue to provide for his family.

Daniels and his family are doing everything they can to prolong his life,while he is on the wait list. His wife is even donating her kidney to someone in need to help move him higher up on the list.

Daniels said in a phone interview that organ donation is much more than what is done with your body once you have died. It is what gives some people a second chance at life.

“Though I am biased, I wish people knew that organ donation is not a bad thing and should actually be praised. Many are concerned with what happens with their body afterwards, but they don’t see that good that is done,” he said.

In the subject of people offering to be organ donors and if people should be forced to donate their organs after they’ve died, or if it should always be a choice, he said. “I do believe that everyone should have a choice. I just wish they would make the right choice.”

Though becoming an organ donor is a choice that each person makes, there are many logistics that play into being a donor. Intermountain Donor Services is a company that takes care of those logistics for people who are waitlisted.

Intermountain Donor Services is a nonprofit organization located in Salt Lake City that retrieves organs from a body of a person who has died. It is the only organization in Utah that can retrieve all organs. Organs that can be retrieved are the heart, lungs, kidneys, liver, pancreas and occasionally the small bowel and tissues can be taken and used in organ donation.

All organs can be used from the body of someone who has died if that person has given consent by becoming a donor.

“Organ donation affects many people. Both the recipient and the donor, both of these parties have parents, and friends, and coworkers, and neighbors that are affected by a successful transplant,” said Alex McDonald, director of public relations for Intermountain Donor Services.

Nationally, there are about 115,000 people who are waiting for a transplant. These people range in ages from newborn to 70 years old. Of those, approximately 80,000 are waiting for kidneys. McDonald said “numerically, kidneys are the most needed.”

“With a failing liver, there is no artificial way to keep a liver going. If a person needs a kidney, they can be temporarily sustained with dialysis. If a heart is needed, it can be artificially sustained, and lungs can be helped with oxygen. But there is no way to artificially represent a liver and its functions to the human body,” McDonald said.

If McDonald were to say anything to someone who was becoming an organ donor, he would tell them, “About 21 people die every day waiting for a transplant. This would equal about seven thousand and four hundred people a year, nationally, who die waiting. Utah alone has approximatively 800 people on the waitlist.”

McDonald would like anyone who is considering becoming a donor to think that no one just woke up one day and decided they wanted a new organ. They were put into this situation and now they are in need. “Would you wish someone would be a donor, so you could live? Would you be willing to do the same?” McDonald said.

A person can choose for themselves at the age of 16 if they’d like to be a donor or not. If a donor is under the age of 18, Intermountain Donor Services will honor the parents’ wishes. Some parents can’t fathom the thought, but for parents such as Kathy Shelton, it was a miracle.

Shelton is a resident of Roy, Utah. Her daughter, Heidi, lived in Salt Lake City. She died in the summer of 2014 of an accidental overdose. Kathy was able to donate her daughter’s corneas and some of the larger bones in her arms.

Organ donation is important to her because due to her daughter donating, someone is able to see again, or someone who needed a bone graft is now able to receive one. Shelton strongly believes in the benefits of organ donation and explains that organ donation is the only way that science and medicine will every advance.

Shelton’s daughter at some point actually needed a bone graft and had received one from a cadaver.

“You hear about the parents get to meet the people whose organs go to many people. Think if a person can recover eight organs that’s eight people that are affected. And eight people with parents and families and friends who get a second chance at life,” Shelton said.

Shelton is a donor herself and said she plans to donate her entire body to science. This will help doctors to be able to practice and to help the advancement of medicine.

Organ donation can touch many lives and is very important to many. You can grant someone a second chance at life. You can change the lives of thousands by just saying “Yes” to becoming an organ donor when obtaining your driver license. You can also register to become an organ donor online through Intermountain Donor Services.