Posted on: May 10, 2016
Written by: Coalition for Compassionate Care of California
Last month in a post about National Donate Life Month, I wrote about some of the myths and misconceptions surrounding why more people are not registered organ, eye and tissue donors. This month, for Older Americans Awareness Month, I want to go into greater detail about the two myths regarding age and health.
Myth 1: I am too old to donate.
Donate Life California, the state-authorized organ, eye and tissue donor registry, gets calls nearly every day from people who say they’re too old to be donors and they want their names taken off the registry. The fact is, more than one-third of all deceased donors are 50 or older. There have even been donors in their 90s!
Paul Rodman of Los Alamitos was an older donor. Tragically, he suffered a sudden heart attack at the age of 69. While his wife, Sallie, waited for their children to arrive at the hospital, she was asked if Paul would have wanted to be a donor. She remembered the pink dot on his driver license and realized that’s exactly what he would have wanted. She was later told Paul’s donated bones and tissue helped 17 people ages 16 to 83 in shoulder, knee and spine surgeries.
“I realized that Paul performed the ultimate act of kindness when he put that pink dot on his license. It designated him as willing to give of himself as his last act on this earth,” recalls Sallie. Read Paul’s Story of Hope.
Myth 2: My health is not very good. Nobody would want my organs or tissues.
The truth is, 85 percent of all people are eligible to donate life-enhancing tissue, which includes skin, corneas, heart valves, tendons, ligaments, bone and more. Tissue donation can help give people their lives back.
Take Ana Maria Villalobos of Whittier. She has suffered from rheumatoid arthritis since she was in her 20s. The condition has caused her excruciating pain and limited mobility, but two knee and two hip replacements have helped.
“I was told by my doctor that the bone of tissue donors was made into a cement paste that glued my bones and allowed me to heal better and faster,” says a grateful Villalobos. “If it wasn’t for the people who said ‘yes’ to tissue donation and my surgeries, I would be in a wheelchair today.” Read Ana Maria’s Story of Hope.
The bottom line is, register to be a donor and leave it up to the medical professionals to determine your eligibility to become a donor at the time of death. Even cancer patients or those with hepatitis can potentially donate.
There are two simple ways to register – you can either check “YES!” when you get or renew your driver license or ID card at the DMV (where you get your pink “DONOR” dot), or you can sign up online at donateLIFEcalifornia.org. Once you register, be sure to share your decision with your friends and family.
Judy Thomas, JD, is CEO of the Coalition for Compassionate Care of California, and serves on the Donate Life California board of advisors.