From my Heart to Yours!

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This Valentine’s Day, you probably saw yucky, mushy cards or advertisements that said something like, “I give you my heart”, or “my heart belongs to you” (double yuck!).  That is really just a way of expressing your love to someone – but did you know that people can actually give or donate their heart to another person? 

How is this possible? An operation called organ donation.

Hmmm… what is organ donation?  Our bodies are packed with muscles, tissues, and organs. Organs are our hearts, stomachs, liver, kidney, and brains. We have more organs, of course, like our eyes. But these five are essential for us to have in order to live.

Organs are groups of tissue that work together to perform a function. The heart, for example, pumps blood.

Organ donation is when a person gives permission for their organ to be surgically removed and given to someone who needs it. This can save the life of the person receiving the organ. How truly incredible!

Organs can only be donated with permission. Sometimes, the permission is given by a person who says they are happy to donate an organ while they are still alive – like their kidney or bone marrow. This is because humans have two kidneys, and can learn to live with only one. Bone marrow is something that is hard for the body to make, but the body does make more.

Permission may also be given by someone who promises that they will donate their organs when they die. At times, permission of relatives of someone who has died may be taken.

It sometimes sounds scary to think about someone dying and their organs being donated to another person – but when you think about it, what an invaluable gift it is to be able to give a blind person a chance to see, or to save someones life.

What organs can be donated and how does all this work? Organs that can be donated include bones, the cornea of the eye, liver, lungs, pancreas and skin. The blood and tissue of the organ donor as well as the person receiving the organ need to be closely matched in order to improve the chance that the operation will be a success.

If someone is very ill, for example if their kidney is not working properly, their name is put on a list.  People may be on a list for many months and even years.  When a donor becomes available, the next person on the list who is an ideal match will have a chance to get the organ which is then transplanted into them.

What are the rules?  Different countries have different rules for organ donation.  In India you can register with certain organisations to be a donor.   The Netherlands recently passed a law that all Dutch are presumed to be donors when they die unless they “opt-out”- which means that everyone is a donor unless they specifically say that they don’t want to be.


Written by: Purnima Thacker

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