Understanding the Impact of Organ Donation

CUTLINE – Pictured is HCMC EMS Partner Kristina Cannon, a heart transplant recepient.

Paris, TN – In the United States, there are more than 113,000 people waiting for an organ transplant.  However, there are only around 8,000 deceased organ donors each year. Due to the supply versus demand, around 20 people die each day while waiting for an organ and another person is added to the wait list every 10 minutes. Registering to be an organ and tissue donor can help to meet this demand.

One person alone can save up to eight lives through the donation of lungs, liver, heart, kidney, pancreas, and intestines, while a tissue donor can impact over 50 or more people. 

90% of Americans support donation, but less than half are registered. Henry County Medical Center wants to bring awareness of the importance of organ and tissue donation and encourage the public to register.

Your decision to register as a donor is a legal documented decision to be an organ and tissue donor upon death, according to the Tennessee Uniform Anatomical Gift Act. With the exception of minors, a person’s decision to become a registered donor does not require the consent of any other person.

There are four main ways to register in Tennessee:

  • Go to the online Donor Registry at donatelifetn.org. This is the best way to specify your gifts. Anyone 13 years of age and older can register online if they have a state ID, driver’s license or learner’s permit.
  • Department of Safety Drivers Services Centers. Once you check “yes” on your driver’s license application for a new license or renewal, you will notice a red heart on your driver’s license a symbol you are registered as an organ and tissue donor.
  • org/via Apple Health App for the National Organ and Tissue Registry
  • Advance Directive/Living Will

Once you have registered, share your decision with your family and friends.

There are many misconceptions about organ donation. Here are just a few:

  • Many people think they may not be eligible. Anyone may be a potential donor regardless of age, race, or medical history. Medical condition at the time of death will determine what organs and tissue can be donated.
  • An open casket is an option.
  • If you are sick or injured, the hospital will do everything possible to save your life. Only after all life-saving efforts have been exhausted may organ and tissue donation be an option.

You never know when you or someone you love might be in need of an organ or tissue. This scenario became all too real for Kristina Cannon of Paris, TN. Kristina was a healthy, 30-year old mother of two working as an Emergency Medical Technician for Henry County Medical Center.  In August  2017, she began having trouble catching her breath and sought medical treatment. She quickly found out that her heart was failing and she would need a heart transplant. She had a left ventricular assist device (LVAD) placed which would help her heart pump blood to the rest of her body while she awaited a transplant.  On May 9, 2018, her miracle happened, and a heart became available for her. She was notified that morning and had her heart transplant by that evening.

It has been a long road of recovery for Kristina but she is grateful to be alive and grateful to her donor. Her wish is to be able to see her children grow up (her daughter is 12 and son is 4) and she is so grateful for the opportunity to be able to do that due to the generous gift of a stranger and their family.  She has been corresponding with her donor’s family and hopes to meet them one day. Her advice for people after going through such an ordeal is to spend as much time as possible with your loved ones and never take life for granted. Because of her experience, she feels a calling to “give back” for the gift she has received. She wants people to be more aware of their bodies, especially their hearts and seek treatment when they have issues. Never think you are too young to have something wrong with you. She also is a champion for organ and tissue donation and hopes to raise awareness and  encourage people to register to be a donor. Organ donation has given her the precious gift of time.

April is National Donate Life Month. To kick off the month of recognition, Henry County Medical Center will be hosting a Lunch to Learn with Tennessee Donor Services. They will be discussing the importance of organ and tissue donation and the donation process. Cindy Vaughn, an organ recipient and Donate Life Ambassador will be sharing her story about the importance of organ donation. In addition, our very own Kristina Cannon will also be present to share her views on organ donation. The Lunch to Learn will be held on Friday, March 22, 2019 at 12 noon in Classrooms 2 & 3 at HCMC.

HCMC will also be hosting a flag raising ceremony on Monday, April 1, 2019 at 10 a.m. where the organ and tissue donation flag will be raised on the HCMC flag pole where it will remain for the month of April to show our commitment to organ and tissue donation awareness. We invite the public, and especially any organ and tissue donor families and/or transplant recipients to attend. Call the HCMC Findline at 731-644-3463 to register for the Lunch to Learn or for more information about these events and April National Donate Life Month. Visit www.DonateLifeTN.org for more information about organ and tissue donation and the donor registry.