It’s important to increase awareness and spotlight nationwide the importance of organ, eye, and tissue donation and transplantation. During the month of April, we encourage people to share how the impact of becoming an organ donor can be life changing for patients in need while honoring all organ donors by recognizing the lifesaving gift of transplantation.

We sat down with Meaghan Beerson, program administrator of Transplant Services at UPMC, to discuss the importance of both deceased and living donation as well as educational resources to help you learn more about organ donation.

Q. Can you talk about the importance of National Donate Life Month?

A. Registering to become an organ donor, or talking to your family about your decision to become a donor, is a big step. When someone passes away and becomes an organ donor, it’s usually abrupt and sudden. It’s our job is to help the family members understand the process of how their loved one can help save lives.

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Educating ourselves and members of the community about how to become an organ donor and the benefits of organ donation takes that burden off the families so they can focus on their loved one. It’s just one less thing that they have to worry about. At UPMC, we take pride in educating our staff, our patients, and members of the local community about organ donation and providing this education in a way that people can understand all the different aspects that come with the transplantation process.

During National Donate Life Month and through year-long efforts, we also strive to provide education about living donor transplant.

Q. How is UPMC Hamot working to educate patients about living donation?

A. We take a proactive approach with patients when they come in for their first appointment by discussing living donation as an option for them to receive a transplant sooner. We also provide patients with resources to help them find a living donor through our Living Donor Champion Program. We offer pamphlets, videos on our website about living donation, and online Champion Workshops. Our job is to make sure our patients are educated about treatment options and to help them make the best decision possible for their health.

However, we understand that this process is personal and asking someone to become a living donor can be overwhelming. It’s an option that many people are unaware of, so we strive to make sure that every patient we evaluate is informed and understands the benefits of living donation.

Q. What do you tell patients on the waiting list who may be struggling with the concept of organ donation and the fact that someone has to pass away for them to receive a transplant?

A. We always inform patients that the waiting list is part of the transplant process. If a patient is struggling with the concept of having someone die for them to receive a transplant, we will reiterate the option of a living donor transplant to help ease their mind. If a patient says they don’t have anyone to ask or is afraid to put themselves out there, we guide them to our Living Donor Champion Program to help them learn more about how they can share their story to find a living donor. We also let them know that they are not alone in this process because our team is here to offer support and answer their questions.

Q. How can people become more educated about organ donation and what resources would you recommend?

A. There are plenty of resources available for people who are interested in living donation. I would recommend first visiting our website to learn about the basics of the living donation process and how to get started.

You can always sign up to become a living donor for a family member, friend, or a patient in need on one of our websites. The process is quick, and you will be contacted by a UPMC representative shortly after signing up to talk more about your interest in living donation.

We also host online events and tele-town halls where we discuss the importance of living donation, transplant processes, and answer any questions about organ donation and transplant.

To register to become an organ donor, you can visit Donate Life | UPMC Transplant Services.

Q. How important is raising awareness not just among patients but other audiences as well about organ donation?

A. The more people you have that register to become an organ donor, the less time that people spend on the waiting list. If someone signs up to become an organ donor, they are helping someone on the waiting list get a transplant.

Raising awareness among patients and the community can potentially save the lives of people who are currently on the transplant waiting list. Organ donation truly is a wonderful gift of life.

Q. What is one of the highlights of your job?

A. When a patient walks in for their first appointment, we might only know the basics of that person’s life. But once we start to get them into treatment and you’re right with them through every step of the journey, you really get to connect with them on a different level and that is so rewarding to me. Seeing patients get excited and reach the point where they are about to receive a transplant just warms your heart.

To learn more about living donation and the impact organ donors can make, please visit UPMC.com/DonateLife.

About Transplant Services

Established in 1981, UPMC Transplant Services is one of the foremost organ transplant centers in the world. Our clinicians have performed more than 20,000 organ transplant procedures, including liver, kidney, pancreas, single and double lung, heart, and more. We are home to some of the world’s foremost transplant experts and have a long history of developing new antirejection therapies—so organ recipients can enjoy better health with fewer restrictions.