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Become an Organ Donor

One organ and tissue donor can help more than 50 people

There are more than 150,000 men, women and children in the United States are on the National Waiting list, waiting for a life-saving organ transplant.

Sadly, 18 people die each day waiting for a transplant.

At any one time there are more than 2,000 people in the Northwest waiting for a transplant.

Last year, LifeCenter Northwest, the organ procurement organization serving Alaska, Montana, North Idaho and Washington, facilitated 176 organ donors, saving the lives of 525 people.

How to become an organ donor

  • Register online at www.lcnw.org
  • Call LifeCenter Northwest toll-free, at 1 (877) 275-5269, to request that a registry brochure be mailed to you.
  • Say “Yes” to organ donation when renewing your driver’s license. Washington residents who already have a heart on their driver’s license are automatically added to the Washington State organ, eye and tissue registry.

Frequently Asked Questions

Who can be an organ and tissue donor?

While age and medical history are factors, almost anyone can be an organ or tissue donor. Decisions about medical suitability for organ and tissue donation are made, at the time of death, by professionally trained and experienced medical professionals. Register your decision to be an organ donor at www.lcnw.org, or complete and mail a registry card.

What organs and tissues can be donated?

Organs that are transplantable include the heart, kidneys, pancreas, lungs, liver and small intestine. Tissues that can be donated include corneas, skin, bone, heart valves, ligaments, tendons and vascular tissue (veins).

How is the organ and tissue allocation process determined?

When a patient needs a transplant, his or her name is added to the National Transplant Waiting List. United Network of Organ Sharing (UNOS), the organization in charge of the list, works with LifeCenter coordinators as organs become available for transplant.

Through extensive testing, coordinators obtain information about blood type and genetic make-up for each transplantable organ. This information provides a list of suitable recipients, considering such factors as medical urgency, tissue type, length of time on the waiting list, blood type, and body size.

There is no discrimination due to age, sex, race, occupation or social and/or financial status when determining who receives an organ.

What if family members are opposed to donation, but an individual has registered their wishes to be an organ donor?

State and federal laws support the donor’s rights. This means that if an individual has recorded their personal donation decision, it must be honored, whether in accordance with the wishes of their legal next of kin or not. Information about their loved one’s decision will be conveyed to the family members, and they will be supported throughout the donation process. Making sure your family is already aware of the donation decision helps to prevent more stress during their time of loss.

Will doctors still try hard to save a patient who they know is an organ donor?

There is no conflict between saving lives and using organs for transplantation. The doctors who work to save your life are not the same doctors who are involved in organ recovery and transplantation. It is only after every attempt has been made to save your life—and after brain death has been declared—that LifeCenter Northwest will begin the organ donation process.

Can organs be given to different racial groups or individuals of the opposite sex?

Gender does not influence the allocation of donated organs. Although genetics does influence donation, and the shared gene structure of families can allow for a better match, race tends to be a small factor in donation. Cross-racial donations are very successful.

Are organs bought and sold on the black market?

According to the Uniform Anatomical Gift Act of 1984, human organs cannot be bought or sold in the United States. Violators are subject to fines and imprisonment. “Black market” sale is impossible because recovered organs must be rigorously tested to be appropriately matched to a fitting recipient. Organs are distributed according to national policy established and monitored by UNOS.

Can the donor family meet the recipient(s)?

Organ donation is a confidential process. No pressure is ever placed on donor families or transplant recipients to meet or make contact with one another. However, LifeCenter can arrange for this to occur, if the desire is mutual.

Are there religious objections to donation?

Most major Western religions support organ donation as a humanitarian act of giving. Transplantation is consistent with the life-preserving traditions of these faiths. Individuals are encouraged to consult their spiritual advisor with specific questions.

How can you become a living kidney donor?

You can become either a living related donor (LRD) or a living unrelated donor (LUD). An LRD is a blood relative who would like to donate one of their kidneys to a family member. An LUD is a spouse, friend, or co-worker who would like to donate a kidney to a potential recipient. Donations also come from people who become non-directed altruistic donors, meaning that they do not have a specific recipient in mind when they donate their kidney.

Are living kidney donations successful?

Living donor transplants can provide recipients with an excellent quality of life for years! The first non-directed altruistic kidney donation in the Northwest was performed at Swedish Medical Center over 10 years ago, and more than 100 have been performed at Swedish since. At the University of Washington Medical Center, the living kidney donation success rates are above 95 percent.

Completely matched sibling transplants often function well even after 25 years. Fifty percent of the transplants from partially matched donors are functioning well after 15 years, compared with deceased-donor kidneys still working up to 10-13 years after transplant.

Don't I need my kidneys?

Normally, a person has two kidneys, each of which can work alone to remove waste products and fluids from the body. Therefore, a person can donate one kidney and still have healthy kidney function.

You can be considered as a kidney donor if you:

  • Are a blood relative of, or have a significant relationship with the recipient
  • Are in good health
  • Have a compatible blood type

The decision whether to be a kidney donor is not an easy one. It must be a voluntary act and not prompted by family pressure or a feeling of obligation. And there are many emotional, physical and financial matters to consider.

Our transplant coordinators are here to talk you through the process. Call us anytime: (509) 474-4500.

What is the procedure?

Providence Sacred Heart uses the laparoscopic procedure for kidney donors, which greatly reduces the donor’s discomfort and shortens the recovery time.

Typically, the left kidney is removed under general anesthesia, through an incision (approximately 3 inches); 3 or 4 laproscopic ports are used for cameras and surgical tools. The procedure takes about three hours.

Donors stay in the hospital 2-5 days. After discharge, lifting restrictions (no more than 10-20 pounds) are in effect for 4 weeks. Patients are able to drive as soon as they no longer require strong pain medication, and they may return to work in 1-3 weeks.