Organ and blood donation

Organ donation is often spoken about in hushed tones kyobomungo e-book. Nobody really likes the thought of it, let alone talking about it with loved ones and making a decision to become an organ donor. Thankfully, over the past few years, there has been more of a focus on organ donation, what it actually involves, how many people can benefit from your organ and tissue donations, and the fact that it’s really easy to register as a donor.

Who can donate organs?

Any person who is in good health can be considered as a potential organ donor. Initial screening of a potential donor is similar to screening for blood donation. It’s important to rule out any infectious diseases (such as HIV) and other potentially dangerous conditions that may be transferred to the recipient. A full medical and social history will be taken as well as an examination and screening for certain disease and infections. ‘Living’ organ donations are also possible, and this is often happens when a family member or close friend is in need of a transplant.

A person won’t be able to make a ‘living’ organ or tissue donation if they have:

  • An infectious disease that will endanger the recipient (such as HIV, disseminated TB, Malaria, Acute Hepatitis B)
  • Active cancer
  • Organs that have been significantly damaged due to chronic disease such as diabetes and hypertension

What organs and tissues can be donated when you’re living?

Organs:

Living individuals can donate one of the two kidneys, as the remaining kidney is able to provide the necessary function needed to eliminate waste from the body. Single kidney donation is the most frequent living donor procedure.

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A living donor can also donate one of the two lobes of their liver. Liver cells in the remaining lobe of the liver will grow and regenerate until the liver is back to its original size. The regrowth of the liver, in both the donor and the recipient, occurs over a short period of time.

It’s also possible for a living donor to donate a lung or part of a lung, part of the pancreas, and part of the intestines. Although these organs aren’t able to regenerate, the remaining portions of the organs are able to continue functioning normally.

Tissue:

Living donors are also able to donate skin and bone, as well as blood, bone marrow, blood stem cells and umbilical cord blood. Blood and bone marrow can actually be donated more than once, as they both regenerate.

After death, many more organs and tissues can be donated if the donor meets all the screening criteria, and up to 50 people can be helped from one person’s body. These organs and tissues include, but aren’t limited to: the heart, liver, lungs, kidneys, intestines, pancreas, heart valves, bone, skin and corneas.

For more information on organ donation, or to register as an organ donor, visit the Organ Donor Foundation of South Africa website.