Thursday, April 06, 2006
One generous organ donor can benefit many lives

By Dr. Anthony Policastro
Nanticoke Memorial Hospital,
Medical director

In December, I wrote about advance directives and the importance of making end of life care decisions. These decisions include items such as organ donation. April is National Donate Life Month. For that reason, I wanted to take this opportunity to focus more closely on the importance of donation. A concern to me as a pediatrician is the fact that currently, 83 children in our region are in urgent need of a life-saving organ transplant. We might ask ourselves if this is acceptable. We might ask what we can do. We might ask how we can help. I have asked the Gift of Life Donor Program, the organ procurement organization serving Delaware, South Jersey and Eastern Pennsylvania, to provide a more detailed summary of the topic for this week's article: Organ donation is an ever-growing topic of discussion among healthcare professionals and the community-at-large. Because there is a critical shortage of organs available for transplant, many are working toward increasing awareness of the plight of those who wait. As the gap increases between those who receive a transplant and those who are waiting, some of us will have family members, neighbors, friends or co-workers who may be touched by this issue. Did you know that as of March 2006, 344 Delawareans are registered at transplant centers and are desperately waiting for an organ (sometimes more than one) to save their lives? Last year, 309 individuals died because an organ was not available, according to Gift of Life Donor Program the organ procurement organization serving Delaware, South Jersey and Eastern Pennsylvania. You are helping already by taking the time to read this article. Pass it along to someone else who cares. The point is, increasing the dialogue increases the awareness of any health care problem in our communities. Getting the issue on the radar screens of everyone transforms the problem into the creative solution of many. One of the most important things that you can do individually is to make a decision to be a donor and share your decision with your family. At the time a patient dies, families will be asked about donation. Sharing your decision with your family now will enable them to honor your wishes if they are asked about donation. If you have already signed a donor card or indicated your wishes to donate in an advance directive, your pledge of a gift of life is a heroic gesture and truly reflects an unselfish concern for the welfare of others. Making the pledge to be a donor is simple. Consider doing the following:

  • Talk to your family and friends about your wishes. Make sure they understand your decision to be a donor. I encourage you to also discuss and understand the organ donation preferences of those you care about.
  • Say "yes" to organ donation when renewing or obtaining your driver's license.
  • Sign and carry a donor card. Ask your next of kin to witness and also sign the donor card. Provide copies of the card to your next of kin.
  • Make organ and tissue donation a stipulation of your living will.
Last fall, Gov. Ruth Ann Minner unveiled a new way for Delaware residents to become donors – through cyberspace. A special Web site hosted by the Delaware Department of Motor Vehicles allows residents to become organ and tissue donors. Before the Web site became available, Delawareans had to wait until they renewed their licenses or state I.D. cards to become donors. Currently, more than 52 percent of Delaware drivers are registered organ donors. The new Web site,, enables all Delawareans to make their license "a license to heal" by simply filling out an online form. The Delaware Department of Motor Vehicles will process the forms and update the driving records to reflect the new organ and tissue donor status. A letter and brochure will be sent to you containing an organ donor card. Upon your license renewal, the organ donor designation will show next to your photo. According to the Gift of Life Donor Program, more individuals are making the decision to save lives through donation. In 2005 alone, Gift of Life helped to coordinate 1,154 organ transplants in the region, the largest number of transplants in the organization's history, due to the generosity of 382 donors and their donor families who made the decision to give the gift of life. For the ninth consecutive year, Gift of Life has coordinated more organ donations than any other OPO in the country. In 2005, there were 620 bone donors and 1,200 cornea donors, a 32-percent increase from the previous year. As a result, more than 25,000 people have or will benefit from their generous act of tissue donation. Tissue donations include skin to repair injuries of burn victims, bone donation to strengthen arms and legs weakened by disease, corneas to give sight to the blind, heart valves to repair damaged hearts and tendons, ligaments, cartilage and veins that greatly improve a person's quality of life. Despite the record-breaking number of transplants this past year, more than 4,600 people in Gift of Life's service region and over 90,000 patients nationwide remain on the transplant waiting list. As the number of men, women and children in need of organ and tissue donations continues to grow, an average of 17 people die nationally each day waiting for a life-saving transplant. If you'd like to learn more about organ and tissue donation, please call the Gift of Life donor Program at 1-800-DONORS-1 (1.800.366.6771); or visit their Web site at www.

Nurse to speak at April Nanticoke Health Services Auxiliary meeting
Registered nurse Mary Beth Waide will be the guest speaker at the Nanticoke Health Services Auxiliary general membership meeting on Wednesday, April 12. Members will meet at the Methodist Manor House on Middleford Road for a breakfast brunch, which will be served at 9:30 a.m. Cost is $5.25. Reservations are due on or before April 7. Members will be contacted to make their reservations. Members are reminded to use the main lobby entrance of the Manor House.

Waide will speak on "quality, safety and patient care services" at Nanticoke Hospital. Membership in the auxiliary is open to men and women in the hospital service area. There is a broad spectrum of possible areas where service can be given. Interested people may contact Janet Hubbard, president, 628-0417, or membership co-chairwomen Jan Grantz, 628-8478, or Jan Foskey, 875-5629, for additional information.

Help available to select plan
A representative from the Delaware Prescription Assistance Program will be at the CHEER Community Center on Sand Hill Road, Georgetown, to offer education and outreach support to those needing assistance in understanding the new prescription drug program on Tuesday, April 11, and Tuesday, April 25 from 11:30 a.m. to 1:30 p,m. For more information call 854-9500.

Wellness group has programs
A long term cancer survivor support group meets on the first Monday of the month at The Wellness Community-Delaware from 5:30 until 7 p.m. This program, facilitated by Clare Wilson, RN, MS, will focus on meeting the needs of those people who are no longer in active treatment but are still emotionally affected by their experience with cancer. The Sussex facility is located at 19633 Blue Bird Lane, Suite 5, in Rehoboth directly behind the Crab Barn. Call 227-1155 for more information or to register for this group. The Wellness Community-Delaware is part of a national nonprofit organization that provides support, education and hope to people with cancer and their loved ones. Through participation in professionally led support groups, educational workshops and mind/body classes, people affected by cancer learn vital skills that enable them to regain control, reduce isolation and restore hope regardless of the stage of disease. At The Wellness Community-Delaware, all programs are free of charge.