Organ, tissue donation saves lives

Although it might be assumed that organ transplants are a fairly recent phenomenon, its history dates to “ancient Greek, Roman and Chinese myths” according to History in the Headlines presented by the History channel. As far back as 800 B.C. “Indian doctors had likely begun grafting skin … from one part of the body to another to repair wounds and burns.”

Numerous sources agree that the first human kidney transplant, although unsuccessful, took place in 1933 by Yuriu Yu Voronoy, a Ukranian doctor.

It wasn’t until 1954 that a group of doctors at Peter Bent Brigham Hospital in Boston performed the first successful kidney graft, taking a kidney from 23-year-old Ronald Herrick and transplanting it into his twin brother, Richard. Earlier kidney grafts were somewhat successful, lasting for days or months.

A time line of the history of transplants from 1823 can be found at by following this link,

In 1984, the U.S. Congress passed the National Organ Transplant Act. By this time, transplants were less dangerous and more frequent. This act served as a monitoring device surrounding ethical issues of transplants as well as dealing with the country’s organ shortage. This act created the centralized registry for organ matching and outlawed the sale of human organs.

A number of sources state that currently approximately 100,000 Americans are waiting for an organ transplant, and “77 people receive transplanted organs each day,” according to an article by Trisha Torrey in “About Health.” The flip side of that is “19 people in the United States die each day waiting for an organ that never becomes available.” states that organs that can be transplanted are the heart, kidneys, liver, lungs, pancreas, intestine and thymus. Tissue transplants include bones, tendons, cornea, skin, heart valves, nerves and veins.

“Worldwide, the kidneys are the most commonly transplanted organs, followed by the liver and then the heart. Cornea and musculoskeletal grafts (tendons and cornea) are the most commonly transplanted tissues; these outnumber organ transplants by more than tenfold,” the website states.

The National Foundation for Transplants has created a list of facts regarding organ donation that include the following: approximately 21 people die every day while waiting for a transplant; one organ donor can save eight lives and change the lives of more than 50 people; almost anyone can be an organ donor, regardless of age or medical history; all major religions in the U.S. support organ donation; organ donation doesn’t cost the donor’s family any money; donors are needed for all races and ethnic groups.

Saturday is National Minority Donor Awareness Day, recognizing the need for more minorities to become organ and tissue donors, as well as honoring those who have become donors.

The United Network for Organ Sharing (UNOS) is the governing organization responsible for the fair and objective distribution of organs and tissues. UNOS maintains a list of all patient information; as a patient’s condition worsens, the list is updated. As this article was written, 122,653 people were awaiting organ transplants.

While most organ donations come from deceased donors, approximately 6,000 transplants annually come from healthy, living donors, according to Those considering donating an organ generally work directly with a family member and their doctors or a friend’s transplant team. The National Kidney Registry provides a listing of its top kidney transplant centers:

For a living donor, this decision is extremely serious. Donors should have as much information as possible before making a final determination. While there are some organs that can be donated without long-term health issues for the donor, a team of specialists, separate from the transplant team, treats the donor, according to Donating an organ is major surgery and, as with all surgery, come the risks of bleeding, infection, blood clots, allergic reactions or damage to nearby organs and tissues. Donors also will have pain during recovery and they may have visible, lasting scars from the surgery. There is also recovery time involved and insurance coverage regarding future problems should be considered.

The decision to become an organ donor upon your death is painless and simple to accomplish. You can designate yourself as an organ donor when you get or renew your driver’s license. You also can go to for further information about donating organs.

Whether today or in the future, an organ donation means saving a life, the life of a loved one or a stranger who will, thanks to you, continue to live.

To Your Health is written by the staff of Boulder City Hospital. For more information, call 702-293-4111, ext. 576, or visit


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