May 23, 2019. Our program featured Rudy DiGilio who serves as an ambassador for the New Jersey Sharing Network which is the official organ donation agency for the state of New Jersey. The counterpart in Pennsylvania is the Gift of Life program out of Philadelphia. There are 7,500 people on the waiting list in Pennsylvania and 115,000 in the United States.
Many of these people will never receive a donation. 80% are waiting for kidneys and another 12% are waiting for a liver. The remainder of the list are patients awaiting a heart, a pancreas, lungs, or intestines. The kidney and liver donations are the only ones that can be done by a living donor. One organ donor can save up to 8 lives. Tissue donation is also in demand. This would include donation of corneas, valves, bones, veins, tendons, and skin. One tissue donor can enhance the lives of up to 75 people.
Less than 1% of all deaths result in organ donation. The donor must die in a hospital and be quickly placed on a ventilator. The organ donation organization must then be summoned to talk with the family. The process often stalls because family members do not know the wishes of the deceased, or they opt to overrule those wishes. Overruling the wishes of the deceased is probably not legal, but the organ donation organizations choose to not press the issue.
Organ donation is a very personal subject for Rudy as he recently donated a kidney to his brother. He is living proof that it is possible to save someone’s life with little risk. Not all donations are as smooth as Rudy’s. Complications can arise and there can be significant stress within the household as these major decisions are made. Living organ donation is not for everyone and people should feel no guilt if they choose to abstain. People who choose to be listed as organ donors should make their wishes clear to their families. Much more information can be found at https://www.donors1.org/.