Each year, the number of people in need of organ transplants continues to grow. About 118,000 people are still waiting for an organ, according to the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services (HHS), and each day, 22 people die while waiting.
Those who register to have their organs donated after they’ve deceased can each save up to eight lives with a donated heart, lungs, liver, pancreas, kidneys and intestines.
You can register to become a donor at your local Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV). You can also sign up to be an organ donor with your state registry through the HHS Division of Transplantation. Anyone age 18 or older can register; some states allow people younger than 18 to become a donor.
About 40 percent of organ donations come from living donors. Most of these donations are from family members or friends of the person who needs the organ. A living person can donate parts of his or her liver, lung, pancreas and intestines.
If you’re considering becoming a living donor, you need to be evaluated by doctors at a transplant center to see if you’re in good health and whether you can have surgery. Doctors also need to see if you’re a blood and tissue match for the person receiving the organ.
Donating blood can also help save a life. Medical centers need healthy blood supplies to care for patients, including those who need surgery or are receiving cancer treatments. Platelets, cells that help the blood to clot, can help stop or prevent bleeding in patients.
Donating blood takes about 15 minutes; donating platelets can take up to an hour and half. To find out how to donate blood or platelets, visit the UCLA Blood and Platelet Center website.
Bone-marrow transplantation or stem-cell transplantation may be the only cure for people who have leukemia or lymphoma, which are forms of blood cancer.
Bone marrow is the spongy tissue within bones that makes blood cells. Stem cells are immature cells. They are found in the bone marrow and in the bloodstream and develop into healthy blood cells.
Donating bone marrow or stem cells can take 20 to 30 hours of your time, over four to six weeks. To donate bone marrow or stem cells, you can join a national registry through Be the Match. Signing up for a local registry is also an option.
To learn more about organ donation, visit UCLA Transplantation Services.
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