Don’t let myths keep you from saving a life


JOHNSON CITY, Tenn. – Every 12 minutes, a new name is added to the national waiting list for organ donors. In Tennessee alone, there are more than 2,000 people waiting for a life- saving organ transplant; however, there are only about 200 Tennesseans annually who become organ donors after their death. 

Donate Life Tennessee is a partnership that administers and promotes the Tennessee organ and tissue donor registry.

“Our mission here at Donate Life Tennessee is improving lives, saving lives, and giving hope,” said Toni Drumwright, hospital services development coordinator for Donate Life Tennessee. “And we really live by this motto here.”

Johnson City Medical Center (JCMC) is the only transplant center in a more than 100-mile radius. “As the region’s only transplant center, we are privileged to be part of the process that renews life,” said Donna Ledbetter, director of patient care services at JCMC.

The program is fully accredited to perform kidney transplants, pancreas transplants, and combined kidney and pancreas transplants. JCMC surgeons have completed 668 transplants since the program was established in 1990.

In honor of Donate Life month, four Mountain States Health Alliance (MSHA) hospitals raise flags on Friday, April 1 at 10 a.m. to recognize the generosity of those who have donated and to honor the recipients of those selfless donations. 

A reception will be held after the flag raising at JCMC where representatives from Tennessee Donor Services will present the Medal of Honor in recognition of the hospital’s donor conversion rate. This award is presented to only a select few hospitals in the nation. Donor and recipient families will be present at the event, and media is invited to attend.

Despite the critical need for organ and tissue donors, only about 31 percent of Tennesseans are registered organ donors. 

“A lot of the misconceptions about organ donation come from people simply being uneducated about the process,” said Drumwright.

Some of the most common misconceptions are:
Myth: If I agree to donate my organs, the hospital staff won’t work as hard to save my life. Fact: When you go to the hospital for treatment, doctors focus on saving your life — not somebody else’s. You’ll be seen by a doctor whose specialty most closely matches your particular emergency. The doctor in charge of your care has nothing to do with transplantation.

Myth: Maybe I won’t really be dead when they sign my death certificate. Fact: People who have agreed to organ donation are given extra tests to determine that they’re truly dead. This is done at no cost to the family.

Myth: Organ donation is against my religion. Fact: Organ donation is consistent with the beliefs of most religions. This includes Catholicism, Protestantism, Islam and most branches of Judaism. If you’re unsure of your faith’s position on donation, ask a member of your clergy.

Myth: I’m under age 18. I’m too young to make this decision. Fact: That’s true, in a legal sense. But you can express to your parents your wish to donate, and your parents can give their consent knowing that it’s what you wanted.

Myth: An open-casket funeral isn’t an option for people who have donated organs or tissues. Fact: Organ and tissue donation doesn’t interfere with having an open-casket funeral. The donor’s body is clothed for burial, so there are no visible signs of organ or tissue donation. For bone donation, a rod is inserted where bone is removed. With skin donation, a very thin layer of skin similar to a sunburn peel is taken from the donor’s back. 

Myth: I’m too old to donate. Nobody would want my organs. Fact: There’s no defined cutoff age for donating organs. Organs have been successfully transplanted from donors in their 70s and 80s. 

Myth: I’m not in the best of health. Nobody would want my organs or tissues. Fact: Very few medical conditions automatically disqualify you from donating organs. It may turn out that certain organs are not suitable for transplantation, but other organs and tissues may be fine. 

Myth: My family will be charged if I donate my organs. Fact: The organ donor’s family is never charged for donating. Costs for organ removal go to the transplant recipient.
Source: Mayo Clinic 

Tennesseans can register to become organ donors at any Tennessee Driver License Center or online Virginia residents can register online at Register today to become an organ and tissue donor. 
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