April is National Organ Donation Month and, let’s face it, this is a subject no one really wants to talk about.
Most people think it’s about death and dying. In actuality, it’s about living. It’s about giving. It’s about continuing your journey, and living on, long after you leave this lifetime. It’s about second chances. Organ donation is the one single thing you can do to save someone’s life. Think about that. It’s very powerful.
As I write this, at 3:30 p.m. on Sunday afternoon, April 3, there are 110,620 people in the United States waiting for organ transplants, with 7,500 of them right here in New York. Sadly, most of them will die waiting because no suitable donor will be found. In New York State alone, only 285 deceased organ donors were available in 2009, according to United Network for Organ Sharing.
When my husband, Andrew Reister, passed away, he donated his organs, leg bones, veins, skin and tissue, and he was able to help more than 100 people. Wow! What a selfless act and wonderful legacy. Knowing how many people Andrew saved has helped my children and me cope during the grieving process. It has truly been the shining light throughout our entire situation.
Are you aware that veins can be used for heart bypass surgery and for people on dialysis? Bones can be used to repair cleft pallets and for reconstructive surgery and will actually grow in someone else. Skin can be used for burn victims. Organs that can be donated include the heart, kidneys, pancreas, lungs, liver and intestines. Tissues that can be donated include eyes, skin, bone, heart valves, tendons, veins and blood vessels. One person's intestines can save, on average, 10 newborn babies every year.
I often sit and think about how many people talk about “going green, recycling and saving the earth.” What about saving people? We recycle our soda cans, beer bottles, cardboard and plastic. We give our old clothes to charity and give money to our churches and other countries when disaster hits. That’s our human spirit; it’s what we do. What better way to help someone than to give the ultimate gift? To give the gift that keeps on giving? The gift of life!
Registering to be an organ donor is simple. There are two easy ways to do it. You just need to sign the back of your driver’s license. It takes more time to make a cup of coffee than it does to sign your name. You can also log on to New York Organ Donor Network and click on “Register.” Simply fill out the form and click send. It takes about two minutes — and it's free. Another very important step is to discuss your decision with your family, so in the event that you are not able to speak for yourself, like Andrew, your family knows your wishes.
Please, help make this world a better place. Give the gift of life.
Stacey Reister is a resident of Hampton Bays. Her late husband was a Southampton native.