The “sad reality is that the need for life-saving organ transplants is increasing much faster than the organs are becoming available”.
This is the lament of Organ Donor Foundation (ODF) volunteer ambassador Sammy Nandlall.
As a representative of ODF, Nandlall is hoping to change public opinion surrounding organ donation and to spread awareness about the importance of becoming an organ or tissue donor.
“Organ donors save lives. One person’s organs (heart liver, pancreas, kidneys and lungs) can save seven lives [while] the tissues (corneas, bone, tendons, heart valves and skin) can save up to 50 people,” she said.
Nandlall said there are many fears and misconceptions about organ donation which prevents people from signing up.
“This leads to many organ failure deaths that could have been prevented,” she said.
For example, some people worry that the donation process will leave their bodies, or those of their loved ones, disfigured. Nandlall said this is not the case.
“An extreme amount of respect and dignity is given to every single donor. The method of removing the organs and tissues is done so with such great care that the process does not change the body’s appearance,” she said.
Anyone can be a donor, although those under the age of 18 will need the consent of their parents or guardians.
Adults can also make “living donations”, meaning they can donate one of their organs – for example kidneys – or part of one of their organs.
In order to sign up as an organ or tissue donor, you need to meet the following criteria:
Be in good physical and mental health
Are willing to donate without compensation
Not donating under compulsion
Are aware of the process and the benefits and risks
The next step is to either register online at www.odg.org.za or call the ODF’s toll-free number at 080-022-6611.
You will then be sent an organ donor card which you will need to fill out and then carry with you, preferably in your purse or wallet.
You will get stickers to place on your ID document and driver’s license.
While organ donation is a deeply personal choice, you should also discuss your decision with your family so that they are aware of your wishes.
There are no costs involved in donating organs.
“By our laws, the hospital or tissue bank will cover all medical expenses from the moment your family gives consent to have your organs/tissues donated,” said Nandlall.
Of course, you can also opt out of being a donor if you change your mind in the future.