An organ cooler with green ribbon strands floating out in different directions

April Is National Donate Life Month

Right now, thousands of people are in need of an organ transplant. According to the United Network for Organ Sharing (UNOS), more than 104,000 people are waiting to receive an organ transplant from living or deceased donors in the United States. And every 9 minutes, someone is added to the transplant waiting list.1,2

But did you know that by becoming an organ donor, you have the potential to save up to 8 lives? In honor of National Donate Life Month, learn the facts about organ donation. Consider becoming an organ donor so you can give hope to the thousands of people in need of a life-saving organ.3

How to become an organ donor

Anyone can become an organ donor. This is an important decision to make, and it will be different for everyone. Whatever decision you make, share it with your family and friends.4

If you would like to become an organ, eye, and tissue donor, you will need to register in your state’s donor registry. Visit organdonor.gov/sign-up to register.4

Types of organ donation

There are 2 types of organ donation: deceased organ donation and living organ donation.4

Deceased organ donation

Deceased organ donation is when a person donates their organs when they die. When that time comes, their medical condition is assessed, including how much damage their brain and organs have. This determines which organs can be donated.5

The organ allocation process then begins. This involves entering the donor’s blood type, height, weight, hospital zip code, and other details into UNOS’s computer system. Then, the donor is taken to an operating room, where organs that are viable for transplantation are surgically removed. These organs are then sent to the transplant hospitals, where people on the transplant list are waiting.5

The list of organs and tissues that can be donated through deceased donation is always growing. Some of them include:4,6

  • Corneas
  • Heart
  • Intestine
  • Kidney
  • Liver
  • Lung
  • Pancreas
  • Skin

Living organ donation

Thanks to scientific and medical advancements, living organ donation is now possible. Living organ donation is when a living person donates an organ to someone in need.7

Living donation can involve:7

  • A family member
  • A close friend
  • An unrelated person who has heard about the transplant recipient’s need
  • A person who wishes to donate to a stranger (called a non-directed donor)

In order to become a living organ donor, the donor must be:7

If medical tests show that the donor and recipient are a match, the living donor transplantation process can move forward.7,8

The most common organs that can be donated through a living organ donation are:8,9

  • Kidney: In a kidney transplantation, 1 entire kidney is removed. The body has 2 kidneys, but it only needs 1 kidney to survive. This is the most common type of living organ donation.
  • Liver: In a liver transplantation, a segment of the donor's liver is removed. Right after the surgery, their liver will start to regenerate. Within about 6 to 8 weeks, the liver will be back to its normal size.

Parts of other organs are now possible to donate through living donation, including the intestine, lung, and pancreas. But these are much more rare.6,8

Resources to learn more

Several resources can provide more information about organ donation. Check out these organizations:

This April, celebrate Donate Life Month

April is Donate Life Month – a month to observe and honor those who have donated their organs to save the lives of others. If you are not already an organ donor, consider registering today. One day, you too could save lives.3

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