Over 100,000 people in the United States are currently on the organ transplant list waiting for someone to donate the organ they need to survive and live a healthy life. The United Network for Organ Sharing (UNOS) reports that in each of the last five years, over 6,200 organ transplants came about because a living, healthy person chose to donate an organ or other tissue.
When you think of organ donation, you may think that’s something to think about in connection with the end of your life. The human body has many internal organs that we cannot live without, such as the heart. And since we each start life with just one heart, it stands to reason that we cannot donate it until after we die.
But there are some organs in the body that can be shared. For example, a healthy person with two kidneys may chose to donate one. These organs can be considered for live donation:
• Kidney – A person with two healthy kidneys can donate one entire kidney. The remaining kidney can take over the work of both to remove waste products from the body. This is the most common living donor procedure.
• Liver – a portion of the liver may be donated. Because a healthy liver can re-grow missing tissue, both donor and recipient will eventually have livers that are almost full-sized after a transplant.
• Lung – A living donor can provide a lung or a lobe from a lung, which is one of the natural divisions of the lung.
• Intestine – A portion of the intestine can be donated.
• Pancreas – A portion of the pancreas can be donated.
• Heart – As unlikely as this may sound, it is possible for someone with severe lung disease who has a healthy heart to donate the heart at the same time he or she is receiving a new heart and lungs from a deceased donor.
Other tissues that can be donated by living donors include blood, blood marrow, and blood stem cells.
When an organ does become available, doctors use many criteria to find the best match among waiting recipients to make sure the transplant has the best possible chance to succeed.