More than 120,000 individuals in the United States are waiting for an organ transplant. Thousands more wait for the chance to live without pain through a bone or soft tissue transplant. April is National Donate Life Month. Consider sharing your life with others by signing up as an organ, eye and tissue donor.
Moundview Memorial Hospital & Clinics partners with the American Tissue Service Foundation (ATSF) to collect local tissue donations. This includes bone, skin, heart valves, connective tissue and veins. The hospital also partners with the Lions Eye Bank of Wisconsin (LEBW) who recover eyes and corneas to help others with the gift of sight. Recently Moundview’s staff had an opportunity to learn more about tissue and eye donation through an ATSF training.
“One of the stories shared at the training was about a mother who donated her son’s tissue, organs and eyes when he was fatally injured on December 8, 2013,” said Maureen Bruce, Staff Development and Quality Director at Moundview. “Over eight months after her son’s death the mother needed back surgery. She asked about and received tissue from her son’s donation. The mother was honored that it was a piece of her son that had allowed her to heal.”
“It’s possible for family members to receive tissue donations from a loved one who was a donor, although it is very rare,” said Jeanette Potts, ATSF Education and Development Manager. “Tissue has a long shelf life - up to five years in most cases. It can be recovered within 12 to 24 hours of death and preserved for later use. One tissue donation can potentially improve the lives of 50-100 people. More people are eligible as tissue donors than organ donors.”
Donations of bone and connective tissue can help repair fractured bones, reshape facial disfigurement, replace injured ligaments and may eliminate or reduce pain, promote faster healing and save limbs. Donated heart valves can replace defective valves and improve heart function. Skin transplants may save lives in burn cases and can restore functional and cosmetic problems. Cornea and eyes are used to return sight or repair injuries to eyes.
“More than one million tissue transplants are performed each year in the United States,” said Potts. “Donor families find comfort knowing they were able to help others through a loved one’s death. Age is not a barrier to tissue donation. There is no cost to donor families and tissue recovery should not interfere with any funeral arrangements the family chooses.”