An average of 20 Americans die each day awaiting an organ transplant. More than 114,000 people are on the national transplant waiting list, including more than 10,000 in New York State – where organ donor rates lag behind those of most other states.
“It’s not that the people in New York State don’t care, it’s that they don’t know how easy it is to donate,” said Thomas Jasinski Jr., of the Town of Tonawanda, who has received a new kidney and pancreas during the six years.
Jasinski leads a nonprofit named One8Fifty Partners in Transplant. The name was inspired by a little-known statistic: A single donor can provide up to eight people with lifesaving organs and greatly impact at least 50 others through tissue donation.
Several misunderstandings help keep the number of organ donors below where it can be more helpful, Jasinski said. He dispelled several of the most common:
Myth: You have to wait in line at the state Department of Motor Vehicles to become an organ donor
You can – but the process in New York has become much easier. You can register online at one8fifty.org or donatelife.ny.gov. “We use a national platform for Donate Life of America,” Jasinski said of his nonprofit.
Myth: It’s all of your body or nothing
“Any individual who registers can edit their donations and decide what remains they would like used, and how,” Jasinski said. “My parents have both donated their bodies to UB for research at the point of their death. You can say, ‘You can use my organs for transplant.’ ‘You can use them from research.’ ‘You can use this organ but not that one.’ ‘You can use tissues.’ You could go online and alter the list every day if you want.”
Myth: My family ultimately will decide what happens anyway
New York State in recent years has become a state of consent, so when you register as an organ donor that will be the final word on your intentions. This avoids family confusion after death in terms of what a loved one wanted. “Still, Jasinski said, “it’s extremely important that you tell your loved ones, your doctors, anyone who will listen, that you are an organ donor and support organ donation.”
Myth: Once you get to be a certain age, you can’t be a donor
“At the point of a person’s demise, there is a medical team that makes the determination of what can or cannot be used.” Jasinski said. Three years ago, the liver of a 92-year-old man was transplanted into a grandmother in her late 60s, he said. “That’s not going to go to an 18-year-old kid but will go to best fit.”
Myth: Those with serious illnesses can’t donate
“I’ve spoken to volumes and volumes of people whose loved ones have died of horrendous cancers and their corneas were used to provide others the opportunity to see,” Jasinski said.