Frank Sinatra is quoted as having said to a sick friend, “I hope you live to 125 and that mine is the last voice you hear.” I feel that way about all of you…and me, of course.
About 46% of Americans are organ and tissue donors while surveys indicate that around 90% of us think organ and tissue donation is a good idea. So, why the gap? Why are so few of us donors when we all seem to think it’s a good idea? I think it is because people feel no sense of “urgency” to become donors. No one thinks they are going to die any time soon, so what’s the rush? To me, that is an understandable reaction. Combine that with the fact that people generally don’t like to spend much time thinking about their own demise and you have the formula for low organ donation rates.
When you think about it, there’s some justification for the delay. Because of medical, scientific and technological advances we are all living longer. According to the National Vital Statistics Report from September of 2011 for all races and both sexes, American men will live to be 75.4 years old and American women will survive to 80.4 years (read the full report at http://tinyurl.com/6ok8lkp). That’s a long time so putting off becoming an organ donor makes some sense (unless you are the person waiting for an organ).
But…as the commercial says…”But wait….there’s more!” Those numbers are averages and they really don’t tell you much. I’d like to delve into this a little more and show you why there is some urgency to your becoming a donor now.
While the life span look encouraging, we face hazards on a daily basis that may make you think a little about becoming a donor now. I wish everyone a long and healthy life but here are some staggering facts we all should face. Here’s some data on deaths that are preventable. Does any of this fit your profile?
The Preventable Causes of Death in the United States: Comparative Risk Assessment of Dietary, Lifestyle, and Metabolic Risk Factors
Smoking and high blood pressure, which both have effective interventions, are responsible for the largest number of deaths in the US. In 2005 http://tinyurl.com/da8ky7
- Tobacco smoking 467,000 deaths
- High blood pressure 395,000 deaths,
- Overweight–obesity 237,000 deaths
- Physical inactivity 222,000 deaths.
How about accidental causes of death. Accidents happen — and they also kill enough people to rank as the No. 1 cause of death for those ages 1 to 42, according to the National Safety Council. Here’s a countdown from the top four:
5. Choking (Approximately 2,500 deaths per year)
4. Fires (2,700 annual deaths)
3. Falls (25,000 annual deaths)
2. Poisoning (39,000 annual deaths
1. Motor Vehicle Incidents (42,000 annual deaths)
What about your job. Are you safe there? Does it present a hazard? Here’s a list of the most dangerous jobs (full report at http://tinyurl.com/6lnz3to ).
- Fishermen “this occupation is characterized by strenuous work, long hours, seasonal employment, and some of the most hazardous conditions in the workforce.”
- Logging workers This occupation repeatedly takes a spot in the top 10 as not only one of America’s, but the world’s, most dangerous jobs.
- Airplane pilots and flight engineers It may be hard to believe that working as a police officer is safer than flying a plane, but according to the BLS, this is true. The bureau states that there were 78 fatal work injuries for this industry in 2010.
- Farmers and ranchers
- Mining machine operators The most infamous accident within this industry is undoubtedly the Upper Big Branch Mine explosion in April of 2010, which claimed the lives of 29 out of the 31 miners on site.
- Roofers Just three weeks ago, four roofers in San Francisco were seriously injured when the roof of a six-story apartment complex collapsed under them.
- Sanitation workers
- Truck drivers and delivery workers
- Industrial machine workers Police officers In 2010, there was a nearly 40% increase in line-of-duty deaths among U.S. law enforcement.
And one more…hot dogs can be a quick, easy — and deadly — meal. Hot dogs are the perfect size, shape and consistency to block a child’s airway, and a WebMd report rates hot dogs as the top choking hazard for children. Choking killed about 2,500 people in 2009, according to the National Safety Council, and kids ages 3 and under are at the highest risk.
I know these data are depressing but so is the fact that 7,000 people die each year because there are not enough transplantable organs to go around. I’m sure there will be a good number of people who will take issue with this post, saying that I’m trying to frighten people into becoming donors but I’m not. This is reality. Bad things can happen to good people. I’m hoping that at least a few non-donors will be motivated to take action sooner than they had planned. My new heart came from a 30 year old donor. I’ll bet he didn’t plan to die that young but he became a donor anyway and because of it I’m here today writing this blog. Please…become a donor. It is a very urgent matter.
Consider what I’ve written, discuss it with friends, join discussions on Facebook’s Organ Transplant Initiative and comment in the space provided here. When you have decided what you think is the best solution to the organ shortage contact your elected representative or U.S. Senator and let them know your feelings. Change has to begin somewhere, why not with you?
You may comment in the space provided or email your thoughts to me at firstname.lastname@example.org. And – please spread the word about the immediate need for more organ donors. There is nothing you can do that is of greater importance. If you convince one person to be an organ and tissue donor you may save or positively affect over 60 lives. Some of those lives may be people you know and love.
Please view our new video “Thank You From the Bottom of my Donor’s heart” on http://www.organti.org This video was produced to promote organ donation so it is free and no permission is needed for its use.
Also…there is more information on this blog site about other donation/transplantation issues. When you leave this site go to our Facebook group, Organ Transplant Initiative and join. The more members we get the greater our clout with decision makers.