What Actually Happens To Your Body When You Donate Your Organs?

About 95 percent of Americans support organ
donation, but less than half sign up to be a donor… what’s up with that? Hello conscious collection of organs, Jules
here for DNews. No one knows exactly why people refuse to
be organ donors. Organ donation is a tricky subject, and super
individual. According to one study most people gathered
information on organ donation by watching scientifically inaccurate shows like Grey’s
Anatomy. Another study backed up that data, showing
more than half of people learned what they know about donation from television, and another
12 percent from their friends; unsurprisingly, 72 percent of people were afraid organ donation. So, let’s burst this Anatomically Grey bubble
and talk about what actually happens during organ donation. First, if a patient enters a hospital, literally
no one is thinking about whether or not they are an organ donor. If it’s an emergency, they’re working
to save the person’s life, if not, to try and make them healthy again. And yet, it’s a fact of life that they don’t
always succeed. If the person does die, only then do they
check if the person was a donor. Only. Then. Of course, backing up a step, death itself
can be complicated. Some people connect the presence of a heartbeat
to life, but since 1981, legally, it’s not the heartbeat, but brain activity that determines
life or death. If the brain dies, it’s not coming back. Patients who are brain dead, by the way, may
still have basic functions, sometimes assisted or completely controlled by machines — often
the cadaver will be on a ventilator at time of death to keep the blood pumping, oxygen
moving, and organs alive. Sometimes, death is easy to spot: major injury,
blood loss, suffocation, hemorrhage, swelling, stroke, and so on — they all make the diagnosis
of brain death easier, but it’s never taken lightly. Brain death isn’t an accidental or flippant
diagnosis like on tv — there’s no fancy machine with colorful charts monitoring your
brain activity — instead: doctors (yes, there are two) will conduct a “brain death test.” According to the American Academy of Neurology
this means checking for reflexes controlled by the brain stem. They’ll shine a light into the pupil, scratch
the back of the throat, poke to cause minor pain, and put water in the ear canal trying
to get eye reactions. If there’s no response they’re disconnected
from the ventilator to see if they have a “respiratory drive,” or if they want to
breathe. If they react to none of these, doctors decide
their brain stem isn’t controlling their body, and they’re considered brain dead. The ventilator is turned back on, and the
family is informed. The doctors then check donor rolls, and discuss
final wishes with the family. If the person’s wish is for organ donation,
then they look for organ and tissue matches! The heart, kidneys, liver, lungs, pancreas,
intestines, skin, bone tissue, corneas, tendons, ligaments, and blood vessels can all be transplanted
— that may sound like a lot, but that still leaves a lot behind. The doctors take as much care with deceased
donors as they do with living humans, taking the donor to a sterilized operating room like
any other. An anesthesiologists monitors fluids and body
conditions while surgeons remove organs and tissues that can be used, inspect them for
any unknown disease or damage. They then cool them for transport to the donee. Once the organs are safely removed, the person
is closed like any surgery, the ventilator is shut off. The body is cleaned, hair is washed, and the
body is returned to the family. Really quickly, there are a lot of myths out
there about this process. Donors can have an open casket funeral, no
problem, organ donation is performed just like any surgery. Doctors will absolutely work as hard as possible
to save your life if you come in no matter how many desirable looking organs you may
have. And finally, no matter how old you are, your
organs can be helpful. Organ donation is tough for people. A breathing, body with a heartbeat is difficult
for many family members to accept as a cadaver, and even if you sign up to be a donor, and
die in a way suitable for donation, your family can sometimes override that wish. That said, only 3 in 1000 people die in such
a way that allows for donation. They have to be generally healthy, without
viral infection, and must die in a hospital setting! Over 119,000 children, women and men are on
the waiting list for organ donation, and 22 die each day waiting for a replacement. Unsurprisingly, lots of people are working
to get more people to donate their organs. The American Journal of Transplantation published
a study recently detailing how Spain reached 40 donors per million people. That’s huge. In Australia it’s 18 per million, in it’s
Israel 11, Ecuador 2. Thanks to efforts in the U.S. we’re pretty
high on the list at 26 per million. In the end, Spain might be in the lead, but
the winners are the people who are willing to give up parts of themselves they no longer
need, and the stories of those who receive the life-saving donations. So why do we even have to match organs in
the first place? That’s what one group of researchers thought,
so they figured out how to donate from anyone to anyone else. Amy’s got the story here. And if you guys like interesting and obscure
facts – which I know you do – check out our friends at Did You Know for nine facts that
will make you smarter than everyone else. Do you plan to donate your organs? Why or why not? Let us know down below in the comments, and
don’t forget to like and subscribe for more DNews every day.

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