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    Organ donation is the gift of life

female hands holding green organ transplant awareness ribbon

Did you know that one organ donor can save up to eight lives? That’s a pretty powerful reason to consider registering as an organ donor.

More than 118,000 Americans are on the national organ transplant waiting list awaiting a life-saving transplant. Every 10 minutes, someone is added to the national transplant waiting list. On an average day, 77 people receive organ transplants in the U.S. But thousands more never get the call from their transplant center saying a suitable donor organ — and a second chance at life — has been found.

"Organ donation is a generous and worthwhile decision that can be a life-saving gift to multiple people," says Dr. Burcin Taner, chair of the Department of Transplantation at Mayo Clinic's Florida campus. "Thanks to the availability of donated organs, along with regular blood donations that replenish the blood supply so critical to the transplant process, many people will live who might not otherwise have hope."

Contrary to popular belief, signing a donor card or a box on your driver's license doesn't guarantee that your organs will be donated. The best way to ensure that your wishes are carried out is to inform your family of your desire to donate. Doing this in writing ensures that your wishes will be considered. Hospitals seek consent of next of kin before removing organs. If your family members know you wanted to be a donor, it makes it easier for them to give their consent.

If you have no next of kin or doubt your family will agree to donate your organs, you can assign durable power of attorney to someone who you know will abide by your wishes.

Few medical conditions automatically disqualify you from donating your organs. There's also no cutoff age for organ donation. The decision whether or not to use your organs is based on strict medical criteria — not age. So don't disqualify yourself prematurely if you're an older person considering becoming an organ donor.

Many transplant centers will allow you to be a 'living donor' and donate one of your kidneys to a family member, friend or another person of your choice. You also can donate blood or bone marrow.  Donating blood is simple, something you can do regularly (normally every eight weeks) and is an essential component to the organ donation process. Without an adequate supply of all blood types, transplantation cannot occur.

Remember - April is 'National Donate Life Month', so now is a good time to consider registering as an organ donor. Learn more about organ donation from Mayo Clinic.