Stories about: Donate life

Dispelling myths about organ donation

April is Organ Donation Awareness Month, and Boston Children’s Hospital’s Pediatric Transplant Center would like to remind people just how important organ donation is to saving thousands of lives, including children. Right now 120,000 people are on the organ donation list, and 1,735 of those people are pediatric patients. (Of all these patients, 18 will die every day waiting for an organ to become available.)

Almost 2,000 young patients are on the organ donation list

Data shows that a majority of Americans are aware and supportive of organ donation, but only about 60 percent actually take the steps to become an organ donor. One of the biggest roadblocks to getting more people to register as organ donors is misinformation about the process. To help clear up any doubts our readers may have, we’ve created the following list of the more common myths about organ donation and explained why they are untrue.

Myth: Doctors don’t work as hard to save patients who are organ donors because there is such a big need for donated organs.

Truth: For all medical professionals, the first and most important goal is to treat and help their patients. What’s more, organ donation is organized and orchestrated through an impartial third party called an organ procurement and transplantation network (OPTN), so a medical team treating a patient has no knowledge or say in how a person’s organs are allocated. In many cases, while the doctors are trying to save a patient they will have no idea if he or she is eligible to be an organ donor.

Myth: I’ve heard of people who were declared dead that weren’t really gone. I don’t want to lose an organ if I still need it!

Truth: These types of stories make for great headlines, but cases of people being declared dead when they are actually alive are extremely rare in the United States. To be extra careful, the medical community has created specialized tests that are performed in order to confirm that a patient’s brain has, in fact, died. Only after the person has been declared dead can the process of organ donation begin.

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Our patients’ stories: Avery Toole's gift of life from Dalton Lawyer

Avery Toole was born with hypoplastic left heart syndrome (HLHS), one of the rarest and most devastating congenital heart defects. As a long-time nurse in Children’s Hospital Boston’s Neonatal Intensive Care Unit, her mother, Cheryl, knew Avery might one day need a heart transplant. What she didn’t know was the amazing relationship that she, her husband, Mike, and Avery would one day have with the family of the boy whose heart now beats in Avery’s chest. In honor of national Donate Life Month, this is their shared story.

Special thanks to KBTX for contributing to this story. To see more on the Toole/Lawyer connection, please visit their website as well.

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