Each day, 20 people die waiting for an organ transplant, yet many of these deaths are preventable. According to the U.S. Health and Services Administration, while 95% of the adult population endorses organ donation, only 54% of the people in our country are registered organ donors. That’s mainly because people don’t know exactly what they’d be signing up for. Still others don’t know how to become an organ donor.

Together, we can help change that.

For people whose organs are failing because of disease or injury, donated organs and tissue may offer the gift of life. Everyone who signs up to be a donor is giving recipients a second chance to live their lives to the fullest. By choosing to be an organ donor, you can save up to eight lives, and enhance the quality of life of up to 75 people!

Two Routes to Organ Donation

In short, there are two ways you can give the gift of life through organ donation.

You can become a living donor.

A living person can donate a kidney or a portion of their liver. UPMC does not do living-donor lung, pancreas or intestinal transplants.

Living donor transplant offers an alternative for people on the transplant waiting list and increases the number of organs available, saving more lives. The living donation process begins with an assessment at an accredited transplant center to determine eligibility. Next is the matching process. Often, living organ donors have a beneficiary in mind when they undergo the suitability check. Others simply desire to save a person’s life, even if they don’t know the recipient personally.

You can register as an organ donor.

The second way to give life is to register for deceased organ donation. This simply means that you authorize medical professionals — at the time of your death — to assess your eligibility to transplant your healthy organs or tissues into someone in need. Registering to be a deceased organ donor doesn’t guarantee that you will save someone else’s life, but it does make that possible in the right circumstances.

If you choose to be a deceased organ donor, you may be able to donate your heart, kidneys, liver, pancreas, intestines, or lungs. You also can donate tissues, such as your corneas, heart valves, ligaments, veins, and bone.

Organ Donation Myths

The first and most common myth about organ donation is that not all efforts will be made to save your life if you are registered as an organ donor. This notion is simply not true. Organ donation is not even considered until you are deceased.

Second, many think that they will not be able to have an open casket funeral. This notion also is false. There will be no signs of organ or tissue donation when your body is prepared for burial.

People often think their family will have to incur extra costs to donate their organs. This also is not true.

Finally, some think that they are not in good enough health to be an organ donor, or that they are too old. However, there are no medical or age restrictions put on organ donors.

Becoming an Organ Donor

Becoming an organ donor couldn’t be easier. Simply add your name and information to the National Donate Life Registry by visiting UPMC.com/DonateLife.

You also can have the Organ Donor designation put on your driver’s license whenever you visit a Penndot Photo License Center. It is important to make your wishes known clearly to your family. Although registering as an organ donor becomes a legal document and your family cannot change a choice that you have made, it is important for your family to know your decision. This is especially important if you are under 18, as you need parental consent to declare yourself an organ donor. Children and teenagers are in need of organs too!

If all the conditions for successful transplantation are met upon your death, your gift of donated organs and tissues could help to up to 75 people. Whether you opt for living or deceased organ donation, you are making a difference.

To give the gift of life, register to become an organ, eye, and tissue donor at UPMC.com/DonateLife, or join the conversation about living donation by following us on Facebook today.