By Jennifer LaRue
"You can't take it with you, but you can pass it on." Typically we think of wealth when we hear this comment, but when Medical Assisting Technology and Health Communication majors from Ohio University Lancaster Campus open with this statement, they're talking health, and, more specifically, the donation of healthy organs and tissue.
Kristen Miller, Tonya Trace, Cassandra Weaver and Ashlee Young volunteered to become peer educators in the Second Chances: Enhancing and Saving Lives program funded by the Ohio Department of Health, Second Chance Trust Fund. They hope to dispel some of the myths and misunderstandings of organ donation.
They began their presentation to fellow students by explaining that one person dies every two days waiting for an organ. The heart, lungs, liver, kidney, pancreas, and small intestine all may be transplanted. Tissue, such as bone, skin, veins, ligaments, heart valves, and eyes also may be transplanted or used for research.
More than 80,000 Americans currently are awaiting some form of transplant. And 750,000 people a year need tissue or eye donation.
Organ and tissue donation do not harm the physical features of the donor's body. "Organ or eye donation does not preclude an open casket," Young says. "Doctors only take what they need," Trace adds, hoping to allay some fears and concerns.
The transplant success rate is more than 85 percent and rising because of new technology and medications.
The peer educators also explain that becoming an organ or tissue donor is a simple process: register in the Ohio Donor Registry by saying "yes" when receiving or renewing a driver's license or state ID at the Ohio Bureau of Motor Vehicles, or complete and return a donor registry form. Then, the team stresses, discuss your wishes to donate with your family, and make sure they understand your commitment. As Weaver points out, in accordance with the law passed this summer, family members cannot override a potential organ donor's wish. Research has shown that family members who know and understand the wishes of their loved one will take comfort in sharing the "Gift of Life."
Many questions typically arise regarding religious beliefs. "All religions believe that organ and tissue donation is a gift of the highest order," Trace says.
Donor registration is renewed every four years along with the driver's license.
According to Miller, the educational program is very new and targets college students. "I think the information is appropriate also for high school students, especially since many of them are taking their driving tests and receiving their licenses."
The MAT/Second Chances Peer Educators are available for group presentations and may be scheduled by contacting Nanci Rosier at Ohio University Lancaster Campus at (740) 654-6711, ext. 290.
Jennifer LaRue is campus relations coordinator with Ohio University Lancaster Campus.