Mar 4, 2008

Organ Donation: LU student testifies to the need to share life

by Jennifre Schmidt

In a nation of health and prosperity, most Americans might be surprised to know that 97,686 individuals are currently waiting for an organ donation. The numbers of people on the waiting list have continued to rise over the past few years, causing some to declare that there is a severe organ shortage or even a crisis.
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“I think the typical college student probably doesn’t give it much thought, simply because of lack of awareness,” Alan Capp said.
Alan admits that he used to be one of those people, until he was forced to change.
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In August 2007, Alan’s father was given six months to live after doctors were unsuccessful with a routine heart procedure. After suffering from heart problems the majority of his life, Dan Capp’s heart had finally given out. The Capp family was told that he would need a heart transplant.
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“They said he had about six good months in that heart,” Alan said. “They evaluated him and put him on the waiting list.”
The waiting list for heart transplants tops 2,600 candidates, with hearts being one of the hardest transplants to obtain due to its limited nature.
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While many donations, such as kidneys, can be given by living donors, those needing a new heart like Dan Capp must wait for someone else’s life to come to an end before their’s can continue.
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Matching donors is difficult as the heart must be undamaged and healthy in its own right.
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Blood types must also be a match in order for the body to accept a foreign organ. In 2007, there only 2,101 heart donations were made.
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“For two months, I watched him dying,” Alan said of his father’s wait for a heart.
However, doctors found a match for Dan Capp, and on Oct. 2 — Alan’s birthday — he received his new heart.
Alan expressed amazement at his father’s rapid recovery, noting that only three weeks following the procedure his father was able to go sightseeing with the family.
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Though the need for organ donations is close to 98,000, the amount of donors in 2007 was only 13,223, with 5,810 of those donations coming from living donors.
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“I think people hesitate because they don’t know all the details,” Alan said, who now speaks about the importance of organ donation to local churches. “When I speak, I always talk about the rumors surrounding donation.”
Almost every organ donation Web site acknowledges these rumors, one of the most prolific ones being that hospitals and health care professionals will not try to save a life if they know the individual is an organ donor.
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“If you are sick or injured and admitted to the hospital, the number one priority is to save your life. Organ donation can only be considered after brain death has been declared by a physician,” according to the Organ Procurement and Transplantation Network (OPTN).
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Other myths regarding organ donation that the OPTN addresses on its Web site include that the waiting list is biased, that age can disqualify a donor and that only hearts, kidneys and livers are needed.
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Donation possibilities extend far beyond the typical “they only take hearts and kidneys” rumors that tend to be perpetuated.
“Needed organs include the heart, kidneys, pancreas, lungs, liver and intestines. Tissue that can be donated include the eyes, skin, bone, heart valves and tendons,” the OPTN says on its Web site.
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Since Congress mandated the need for a private, non-profit organization to manage the organ donation process in 1984, the United Network for Organ Sharing (UNOS) has directed the matching and procurement of organ donation in the U.S.
“To advance organ availability and transplantation by uniting and supporting our communities for the benefit of patients through education, technology and policy development” is the official mission statement of the UNOS according to its Web site.
Alan now has a personal mission statement regarding the message of organ donation.
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He said, “One thing I always share when I speak, is that as Christians, we will no longer need these bodies when we’re gone. We’re getting new and much better ones. So, why not help out someone in need?”

Contact Jennifer Schmidt at jschmidt@liberty.edu.


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