Donations Urgently Needed

Front Page / Jan. 11, 2001 12:00am EST

• Fifteen people die each day waiting for an organ transplant.

• Many people have organ and tissue donor cards in their wallets or purses, but many more have never seriously considered the potential good they could do by becoming a donor.

When her adult son, Michael, was diagnosed in 1995 with primary sclerosing cholangitis, (a fatal disease of the bile ducts), Dee Monte of Brookfield made it her business to learn a lot about organ transplants. Michael, who is nearing his 40th birthday, lives in Philadelphia, where he is on the UNOS (United Network of Organ Sharing) liver transplant list for his area.

Information about a potential donor such as blood type, age, height and weight is entered into the UNOS computer. The system searches for the best-matched recipient for available organs, which are matched with patients waiting for a transplant. Patients are chosen based on medical urgency and their time on the waiting list.

As of early November, there were over 72,000 patients listed on the UNOS National Organ Transplant waiting list, some of whom were waiting for more than one organ, Monte said.

The Center for Donation and Transplant, based in Albany, N.Y., urges every family to discuss organ and tissue donation. In many states, you can have a donor pledge on your driver’s license and have it witnessed by two family members. The most important step in considering organ donation, she said, is a family discussion, so that family members are fully informed and aware of each other’s wishes.

Even if a person has signed a donor card on his or her license, objecting relatives may easily stop the donations, she said.

According to a CDT pamphlet, "neither age nor medical history should stop anyone from making the decision to be a donor. The transplant team will evaluate each potential donor on and individual basis."

"In order to get an organ," Dee Monte explained, "you have to be extremely sick, but Michael’s not that sick right now, thank God."

As with a kidney transplant, a living person can be a liver donor, since you can transplant one of its two lobes (the right one is larger). The liver regenerates itself, so the donor’s liver can be back to its original size within a month or a little more. In order to be a match, the donor and the recipient must have the same blood type and essential body size.

Dee Monte shared the good news that her daughter-in-law’s nephews, who are the same blood type as Michael, have offered to be donors for him at such time as he needs a transplant.

Active with the Vermont unit of the CDT, she often gives talks about the subject to area organizations. She recently spoke at a Randolph Rotary Club meeting and at a meeting of the Bethany Church Women’s Fellowship group.

For more information about organ transplant, contact Dee at 276-3576 or Stephanie Butterfield, coordinator of the Vermont unit of the CDT, based at Fletcher Allen Medical Center in Burlington, by calling 802-847-1166. Butterfield is currently trying to set up a Vermont Organ Registry with the help of the Vermont Rotary Clubs. The Rotary Clubs International organization has made organ donor awareness their project for the year 2001.

By Martha Slater

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