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The Most Common Sources of Organ Donations

October 06, 2015

Organ donation is often filled with conflicting emotions.

When someone’s life is saved by the death of another, sorrow and gratitude come together in a very unusual way.

The circumstances surrounding organ donation often are very tragic—a terrible car accident results in a loss of life or an unforeseen illness causes a person to lose all brain function. I feel for families in this situation, who often have to make a very difficult decision right after losing a loved one. At the same time, the gratitude of the survivor’s family shows just how powerful organ donation can be.

In emergency rooms all across the country, doctors see the unfathomable. But when someone comes in, our first thought isn’t about organ donation. We have one goal: to save the person’s life. However, we often treat people who have experienced life-threatening accidents. Often, they are so serious that there is nothing we can do to save someone even after we try everything possible. Many of these accidents often result in organ donation.

Understanding the Sources of Organ Donation

Most organ donations occur after “brain death,” which typically occurs after a catastrophic brain injury caused by an accident or illness. When a blood vessel bursts in the brain, it causes bleeding in the surrounding tissues. This leads to an irreversible loss of brain function and activity. Stroke or aneurysm can lead to bleeding in the brain, as can trauma that might occur after a car accident, severe fall or direct hit with a blunt object.

In some cases, organ donation happens after someone experiences cardiac arrest. During cardiac arrest, the brain doesn’t get enough oxygen and the tissues begin to swell. As the brain swells, pressure builds and blood flow to the brain stops, leading to brain death. Someone can be declared brain dead in this situation even though his or her heart may still beat. This is one of the most tragic circumstances under which organs are donated, as many families struggle to come to terms with the fact that their loved one is gone.

Even in this heart wrenching situation, I see families exhibit so much grace. Though nothing can remove their pain, they are often comforted by the fact that their loved one has saved a life. Organ donation is so important because one donor can save up to eight lives. With nearly 123,000 people currently on the transplant list, these donations could literally be life changing for thousands of people.

If you’re thinking about registering as donor, please visit Translife’s website to learn more about organ donation.

My passion for organ donation advocacy led me to start my organization, Gr8 to Don8. We partner with high schools and colleges to educate, and hold an annual 8K charity run in the Longwood area. Click here to learn more.