Dr. Randy Martin: We recently celebrated Donate Life Month, which encourages Americans to register as organ, eye and tissue donors, and celebrate those who have saved lives through the gift of donation. I spoke with Dr. Carlos Zayas, the medical director of transplant nephrology at Piedmont Hospital, about organ donation and how the process works.
“Currently in the United States, there are 110,000 people waiting for an organ transplant,” says Carlos Zayas, M.D., a transplant nephrologist at the Piedmont Transplant Institute. Unfortunately, “approximately 40 percent of those people will die waiting for a donor.”
Of those waiting for donors, 88,000 are waiting on a kidney, 3,000 on a heart, 16,000 on a liver and 2,500 on a kidney/pancreas. “As you can see, it’s a very large problem,” says Dr. Zayas.
Despite efforts for awareness, many people do not know about process of organ donation. Prominent Atlanta media personality, Melissa Carter, has shared her transplant journey with her listeners over the last decade. Thanks to a donation from her cousin, the popular radio show host received a kidney transplant at Piedmont Hospital in 2002. Many people are taking unique measures to find donors – former New Kids on the Block singer Donnie Wahlberg used his Twitter followers to help a fan find a kidney donation.
Dr. Zayas says there are a few ways to signify that you would like to serve as an organ donor: 1- State your wishes on your driver’s license when you renew it. 2- Most important, let your loved ones know that you wish to donate your organs. If you want to register as a bone marrow donor, go to www.bethematch.org.
Since doctors first began organ transplants in the 1960s, the survival rates have increased dramatically, making this type of surgery promising for those suffering from chronic conditions.
“When we started with solid organ transplants , the survival rate for kidney patients was 10 percent after one year,” Dr. Zayas explains. Now, he says the one-year survival rate for kidney transplants, which have the best survival rates of all the organs, is above 98 percent for the donor and 95 percent for recipients. “It is an extreme difference and patients do very well.”
Dr. Randy Martin: The number of lives that are touched by organ donation are pretty substantial. One organ donor can save up to eight lives, so consider registering today as an organ or bone marrow donor. You never know what a difference you will make.