Archive for March, 2010


(Bob Aronson, the author of this blog, received a new heart on August 21, 2007)

People who need an organ transplant face two hurdles; one is the limited availability of organs and the second is the possibility that if you do get an organ your body might reject it. 

 

First let us discuss the donor issue.  Since the national Organ Transplant Act of 1984 The United States has depended on the altruistic motive for obtaining organs.  That means we must depend on people becoming organ donors voluntarily through the goodness of their hearts.  Unfortunately despite increasing efforts the gap between those who need organs and the number of organs available is steadily increasing.  Only about 35 percent of Americans are donors and with over 100,000 people on the transplant list thousands are dying each year because of the lack of donor organs.  Many more thousands probably die because, for whatever reason, they never got on the list.  We’ve tried the altruistic method now for twenty-six years and must admit that it simply isn’t working.

 

The second issue is rejection.  Without anti-rejection drugs most of us who have been transplanted would likely reject our new organs and die within a short time of undergoing the surgery unless the new organ came from an identical twin.  Short of that, though, there is always a risk.  Some people die even with anti-rejection drugs like Cyclosporine.  So what’s the solution?  There is one potential remedy that seems to make the most sense despite its potential for extreme controversy and that is cloning.   

 

I’m not talking about cloning human beings for their organs but rather cloning specific organs.  It is called therapeutic cloning as opposed to reproductive cloning.  Engaging in therapeutic cloning would solve the two problems I outlined.  It would greatly diminish or even end the organ shortage and, because we would be using our own cells for the cloning process, our bodies would not reject the organs and there would be no need for anti-rejection drugs which, in turn, would reduce the cost to the patient, insurance companies and the government.  


While cloning human organs is theoretically possible success rates have been very low and very expensive.  But, according to the Human Genome Project,
http://www.ornl.gov/sci/techresources/Human_Genome/elsi/cloning.shtml#organsQ “Scientists hope that one day therapeutic cloning can be used to generate tissues and organs for transplants. To do this, DNA would be extracted from the person in need of a transplant and inserted into an enucleated egg. After the egg containing the patient’s DNA starts to divide, embryonic stem cells that can be transformed into any type of tissue would be harvested. The stem cells would be used to generate an organ or tissue that is a genetic match to the recipient. In theory, the cloned organ could then be transplanted into the patient without the risk of tissue rejection. If organs could be generated from cloned human embryos, the need for organ donation could be significantly reduced.”

 

Experts say that the benefits of organ cloning are almost too numerous to list but I will name just a few.

  • Skin for burn victims
  • Vital organs like hearts, lungs, livers and kidneys could be produced.
  • Bone marrow for those who suffer with leukemia.
  • Genetic therapy for Cystic Fibrosis.
  • We may learn how to turn cells on and off and therefore develop a cure for cancer.
  • We may be able to grow new nerves for spinal cord injuries and perhaps put the wheelchair industry out of business.

Yes, much of this is wistful thinking but researchers say it is possible, that more effectively treating or even curing some diseases may not be that far away.  What do you think?  Is it morally or ethically acceptable to clone organs?  Whatever your position we would all like to hear the rationale for your decision. 

Please comment in the space provided or email your thoughts to me at bob@baronson.org.  And – spread the word about the immediate need for more organ donors.  On-line registration can be done at http://www.donatelife.net/index.php  Whenever you can, help people formally register.  There is nothing you can do that is of greater importance.  If you convince one person to be a donor you may save or positively affect over 50 lives.  Some of those lives may be people you know and love.  

You are also invited to join Organ Transplantation Initiative (OTI) http://www.facebook.com/#!/group.php?gid=152655364765710 a group dedicated to providing help and information to donors, donor families, transplant patients and families, caregivers and all other interested parties.  Your participation is important if we are to influence decision makers to support efforts to increase organ donation and support organ regeneration, replacement and research efforts. 


By Bob Aronson

devil cartoonAlcohol, Drugs and Tobacco can have deadly effects on your organs and constitute one of the leading contributors to the need for organ transplantation.  I have long contended that while organ donation is important we just aren’t making enough headway under the current system.  Too many people are dying because of the organ shortage.  One way of reducing the organ shortage is to diminish the demand.   Healthier living could help achieve that goal. Look at this listing of the short and long term effects of alcohol.

Depending on how much is taken and the physical condition of the individual, alcohol can cause:

  • Slurred speech
  • Drowsiness
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Upset stomach
  • Headaches
  • Breathing difficulties
  • Distorted vision and hearing
  • Impaired judgment
  • Decreased perception and coordination
  • Unconsciousness
  • Anemia (loss of red blood cells)
  • Coma
  • Blackouts (memory lapses, where the drinker cannot remember events that occurred while under the influence)

Long-term effects of alcohol

Binge drinking and continued alcohol use in large amounts are associated with many health problems, including:

 

  • Unintentional injuries such as car crash, falls, burns, drowning
  • Intentional injuries such as firearm injuries, sexual assault, domestic violence
  • Increased on-the-job injuries and loss of productivity
  • Increased family problems, broken relationships
  • Alcohol poisoning
  • High blood pressure, stroke, and other heart-related diseases
  • Liver disease
  • Nerve damage
  • Sexual problems
  • Permanent damage to the brain
  • Vitamin B1 deficiency, which can lead to a disorder characterized by amnesia, apathy and disorientation
  • Ulcers
  • Gastritis (inflammation of stomach walls)
  • Malnutrition
  • Cancer of the mouth and throat
  • More info available at http://www.drugfreeworld.org/drugfacts/alcohol/short-term-long-term-effects.html

I am a recovering alcoholic (since 1982) and know first hand how Alcohol another drunk cartoonprobably caused me to need a heart transplant and cigarettes left me with serious Chronic Obstructive Lung Disease (COPD).   Since I began Blogging in November of 2007, I have published six posts on alcohol’s deadly effects on internal organs.  They are Alcohol and Drugs – Cunning, Mysterious, Deadly; Alcohol May Have Ruined My Heart, How Much Do You Drink; Think Outside the Bottle; Should Alcoholics Get Liver Transplants and How Alcohol Can Kill Your Liver and You. 

These posts have generated numerous responses and questions.  The most common question, though, is, “How can I tell if I am an alcoholic?  A simple answer  is, “If Alcohol is causing problems you  have an alcohol problem!” 

The “Gold Standard” of the treatment industry is the Michigan Alcoholism Screening Test (MAST).  The National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence at  http://www.ncadd-sfv.org/downloads/mast_test.pdf  is a great resource  if you want more information.   I have copied the test and printed it below.  You can take it in the privacy of your home and grade yourself according to the instructions which follow the test.

In order for the results to be accurate your answers must be absolutely truthful, you do no good by lying to yourself so BE HONEST!  I hope you find this information helpful.  

If you take the test and determine that you  need help a good starting point is the Substance Abuse and  Mental Health Services Administration of the U.S. Government (SAMHSA)  http://ncadi.samhsa.gov/links/

 MICHIGAN ALCOHOLISM SCREENING TEST (MAST)

 

Please check one response for each item.

 

1. Do you feel you are a normal drinker? (“normal” – drink as much or less than most other

Yes

No

2. Have you ever awakened the morning after some drinking the night before and found that you could not remember a part of the evening?

Yes

No

3. Does any near relative or close friend ever worry or complain about your drinking?

Yes

No

4. Can you stop drinking without difficulty after one or two drinks?

Yes

No

5. Do you ever feel guilty about your drinking?

Yes

No

6. Have you ever attended a meeting of Alcoholics Anonymous (AA)?

Yes

No

7. Have you ever gotten into physical fights when drinking?

Yes

No

8. Has drinking ever created problems between you and a near relative or close friend?

Yes

No

9. Has any family member or close friend gone to anyone for help about your drinking?

Yes

No

10. Have you ever lost friends because of your drinking?

Yes

No

11. Have you ever gotten into trouble at work because of drinking?

Yes

No

12. Have you ever lost a job because of drinking?

Yes

No

13. Have you ever neglected your obligations, your family, or your work for two or more days in a row because you were drinking?

Yes

No

14. Do you drink before noon fairly often?

Yes

No

15. Have you ever been told you have liver trouble such as cirrhosis?

Yes

No

16. After heavy drinking have you ever had delirium tremens (D.T.’s), severe shaking, visual or auditory (hearing) hallucinations?

Yes

No

17. Have you ever gone to anyone for help about your drinking?

Yes

No

18. Have you ever been hospitalized because of drinking?

Yes

No

19. Has your drinking ever resulted in your being hospitalized in a psychiatric ward?

Yes

No

20. Have you ever gone to any doctor, social worker, clergyman or mental health clinic for help with any emotional problem in which drinking was part of the problem?

Yes

No

21. Have you been arrested more than once for driving while under the influence of alcohol?

Yes

No

22. Have you ever been arrested, even for a few hours, because of other behavior while drinking?

Yes

No

About Scoring this Alcoholism Test Questionnaire

This quiz is scored by allocating 1 point to each ‘yes’ answer — except for questions 1 and 4, where 1 point is allocated for each ‘no’ answer — and totaling the responses.

So in other words, please score one point if you answered the following:

1) No

2) Yes

3) Yes

4) No

5-22) Yes

(Note that this is the current revised version of the MAST; the original MAST included 25 questions and used a more complex scoring method.)

Your Alcoholism Test Score

0-2 = No Apparent Problem

3-5 = Early or Middle Problem Drinker

6+ = Problem Drinker

Please comment in the space provided or email your thoughts to me at bob@baronson.org.  And – spread the word about the immediate need for more organ donors.  On-line registration can be done at www.donatelife.net  Whenever you can, help people formally register.  There is nothing you can do that is of greater importance.  If you convince one person to be a donor you may save or positively affect over 60 lives.  Some of those lives may be people you know and love.  

You are also invited to join Facebook’s Organ Transplantation Initiative (OTI) a 3,400 member  group dedicated to providing help and information to donors, donor families, transplant patients and families, caregivers and all other interested parties.  Your participation is important if we are to influence decision makers to support efforts to increase organ donation and support organ regeneration, replacement and research efforts. 

 bob minus Jay full shotBob Aronson is a 2007 heart transplant recipient, the founder and primary author of the blogs on this site and the founder of Facebook’s over 3,000 member Organ Transplant Initiative group.

Now retired and living in Jacksonville, Florida with his wife Robin he spends his time advocating for patients with end stage diseases and for organ recipients.  He is also active in helping his wife with her art business at art festivals and on her Rockin Robin Prints site on Etsy. 

Bob is a former journalist, Governor’s Communication Director and international communications consultant.