Improving awareness is goal of national donate life month

Filed under: Focus |

Springtime. A time when we celebrate the growth and renewal that surrounds us. This season is also the perfect time to decide to share the gift of life through organ and tissue donation.

April is ‘National Donate Life Month’. During this month, the donation and transplantation community will put forth a concentrated effort to raise public awareness about the critical need for organ and tissue donation and to celebrate all those touched by donation.

Although many individuals and organizations – from non-profits to health care organizations – work diligently each day to help the public understand what donation and transplantation are all about, many people are confused by common myths and incorrect information that prevent them from making the important decision to donate their organs and tissue when they no longer need them.

Many people believe, for example, that they are too old to become donors. Some believe that if they have had an illness, like cancer, they cannot become donors. Some fear that donation disfigures the body. Others believe that if they are signed up to be a donor on the Colorado Organ and Tissue Donor Registry and they were to find themselves in a life or death situation, the hospital will not do everything in their power to save them.

The truth is that anyone – regardless of age, race, gender or medical history – can make the decision to be a donor. And, doctors and nurses will in fact do all they can to save your life first and foremost – that is, after all, their oath.

Deterred by the myths, many people are not aware of the incredible impact that organ and tissue donation can have – amazingly, eight lives can be saved and as many as 50 lives enhanced by just one organ and tissue donor. Just think of what it would mean for all those in need of a transplant if every Coloradoan made the decision to say yes to organ and tissue donation.

During April, National Donate Life Month, and throughout the year, the local donation community will encourage Coloradoans to get the facts about donation and transplantation. We hope that through better understanding of the impact this gift of life can bring, more people than ever will sign up on the Colorado Organ and Tissue Donor Registry -and share their decision with their families.

Despite the need for greater awareness and understanding, it is encouraging to note that more and more people are signing up for the Registry. In 2003 alone, more than 55 percent of all Coloradoans who applied for or renewed their driver licenses or who got identification cards signed up for the Donor Registry, compared to 43.9 percent in 2002. All totaled there has been an amazing 20.4 percent increase in the number of people who say yes to organ and tissue donation since the Donor Registry was created in 2000.

This trend is good news indeed – but it remains imperative that we continue to work towards reaching those Coloradoans who have yet to say yes.

During National Donate Life Month and throughout the year, Donor Awareness Council and its 14 Coalition Partners strive to educate the public on organ and tissue donation, while celebrating the lives of those in the region touched by donation. We continue to work towards the goal of getting the 1,447 people in Colorado and Wyoming today who are on the waiting list for an organ transplant off that list and on to a healthy life. In 2003, there were 337 organ transplants performed at the four transplant centers in Denver. We are hopeful that these numbers will continue to increase as more and more people learn about donation and how important it really is to give the gift of life.

Signing up for the Donor Registry can be done online at www.ColoradoDonorRegistry.org, by calling 1.888.256.4386, or when applying for or renewing a Colorado Drivers License. Anyone can join the Registry, even those under 18 can join with the consent of a parent or legal guardian.

During National Donate Life Month, as we work toward raising awareness, all donors and their families who have given so many others a chance at a better life are honored, and we can only hope that by calling attention to their important decisions, many more Coloradoans will follow their example.

Marlene Murphy is the executive director of the Donor Awareness Council, an affiliate of the Coalition on Donation. Part of a national network of local coalitions, Donor Awareness Council was formed to increase organ and tissue donation through public awareness and education, serving Colorado and Wyoming. To contact the Donor Awareness Council, please visit www.donor-awareness.org or call (303) 388.8605.