Tissue donation creates vast impact

On the Jan. 7 lifestyle cover, our story focused on how corneal transplants bring the gift of sight to those who would otherwise go blind. This week the focus is on how tissue donation in general can vastly improve the quality of life for those who receive the transplant. Tissue donation is the process through which a deceased individual donates part of his or her body for use in transplants into living individuals. These tissues are immensely helpful in a variety of circumstances for numerous people. In fact, just one tissue donor can help more than 75 individuals.

All tissue donation in the state goes through LifeShare Oklahoma, the transplant and donor services of Oklahoma. Jeffrey Orlowski, the president and CEO, has been involved in the program since 2012.

“I’ve been involved in donations since 1987,” he said. “I was interested in ways to make a difference and in 1987 the field was incredibly cutting edge and rapidly evolving.”

One way this technology has evolved involves how long the tissue can be stored once a donation is made.

“After going through some preparation, the tissue can be stored for 6 months to 5 years,” Orlowski said.

Another advancement relates to just how little tissue it can take to make a huge difference.

“A donation as small as a few grams of bone can be used for a dental repair,” he said.

2017 was a stellar year for tissue donations within the state. LifeShare broke its previous record of 725 donors set in 2016 with a new high of 789 donors. These donors could potentially enhance the lives of up to 59,000 people. In spite of all of this success, Orlowski says the need for donors always outweighs the supply. “Please consider becoming a donor,” he said. “Your donation can help save a life.”

Becoming a tissue donor is as easy as checking a box when you renew your driver license. The Anatomical Gift Act of 2006 makes your choice to be an organ donor legally binding. By checking this box, you have allowed your organs and tissue to be harvested to help save others. In spite of this, always remember to alert your loved ones of your decision. If they do not know of your wishes, the organ transplant process could add to their stress at an already tense and sad moment. Let people know of your wishes in advance. Your conversation could help them through a distressing moment and even lead to more organ and tissue donation volunteers.