Most Iowa drivers can probably share my experience. After passing my permit test and taking my less-than-flattering learner’s permit photo, the DMV worker asked me if I would like to be registered as an organ donor. Because I was 14 and shy, I looked to my mom, who answered “yes” for me. At the time, I did not really know what this meant, and it sounded scary. My organs in someone else? No thanks. But that same summer, my opinion shifted.
About a year prior, September 2016, when I was starting eighth grade, doctors found a virus in my mom’s heart. And in September, she had a surgery to implant a left-ventricular assist device (LVAD) that would pump her heart for her. She knew that eventually she would need a heart transplant, and so she was put on the transplant list.
In June 2017, my family and few family friends thought that it would be fun to go camping to kick off the summer. On our first night camping, my mom got a call that there was a heart for her. After many celebratory hugs and tears, my dad drove my mom to Iowa City, where she would undergo transplant surgery. That night, I prayed so much, not only that the surgery would go well, but also for the family who lost a loved one.
My family does not know anything about the organ donor who saved my mom’s life, as the family of the donor stayed confidential by choice, but we are very grateful for them.
So, once I got my school permit a few months later, I confidently said yes to becoming an organ donor, hoping that incase anything happened to me, I could help a family or person in need, like how the mystery donor helped my family.
Now, I am going to encourage you to become an organ donor and convince you that becoming an organ donor is not as scary as it sounds.
There are many myths and questions that are associated with organ donations, such as 1) “If I am an organ donor, the medical staff will not work as hard to save my life,” 2) “Will I actually be dead before they donate my organs?,” 3) “Will my family be charged for the transplant surgery?” and 4) “Does my religion support organ donation?”
Most of us have seen movies or TV shows that involve some medical professional wanting to declare someone as dead so they can harvest organs before the protagonist swoops in and magically brings the patient back to health. And it makes for decent TV, but it is not an accurate description of organ donation. It does not matter if you are an organ donor or not, the doctors and nurses will focus on saving your life. You are not even considered for organ donation until you are dead, according to the American Transplant Foundation. You may be asking, “But how will they know if I am actually dead?” If you are an organ donor, the doctors and nurses check multiple times to make sure that you are dead before preparing to donate your organs, according to Mayo Clinic.
In the U.S., the cost of organ transplants ranges from $260,000 to over $1.2 million, so many people believe that if they their organs are donated, their families are going to be left with the cost. However, the family of the donor does not pay for the transplant surgery. “The organ donor’s family never pays for donation,” according to Mayo Clinic. “The donor family pays for all the medical care given to save your life before your organs are donated. Sometimes families think those costs are for the organ donation. But the person who gets the organs for transplant pays the costs for removing the organs.”
Many major religions support organ donation, including Christianity, viewing organ donation as an act of charity. Similar to how Jesus gave his life for us on the cross, being an organ donor can give many people a chance at living their physical life even after our physical death.