Trust for Life breaks state, national records for participation

Among the many designations for the month of February, it also recognizes National Organ Donor Day on Feb. 14. This week, an organ recipient and an organ donor have shared their stories. In this final installment of a three-part series, some facts about the state's Trust for Life program are highlighted.

Kentucky is known for its welcoming and generous people.

But even more important is the generosity shown by the thousands of people who participate in the Kentucky Organ Donor program.

For the last two years, Kentuckians have supported the Trust for Life program with record-breaking response.

In 2017, Kentucky reached the second highest number of lives saved through the 108 organ donors and their families in which 361 organs were recovered and transplanted while 330 tissue donors healed thousands of patients needing skin grafts and other medical services.

But the latest numbers of organ and tissue donors increased even higher last year, with 140,000 people joining the registry for the first time in 2018. (Northern Kentucky Tribune). The latest numbers indicate that 60 percent of Kentuckians are now registered donors.

Working with the Kentucky Organ Donor Affiliates, the Trust for Life program heroes lifesaving organ donations and living organ and tissue donors. According to numbers released by the Kentucky Circuit Clerks Association, 423 organ transplants were performed last year from 134 organ donors. This is the highest number of organ donors and transplants in the Trust for Life's 32-year history.

But tissue donors also played a key role in saving lives last year. An article in the Northern Kentucky Tribune also states that 367 tissue donors helped over 30,000 people last year, with another 1,000 patients receiving the gift of sight through implantation of 845 cornea donors.

Roger Schott, Laurel Circuit Clerk, said Laurel Countians have been quite supportive of the Trust for Life program, with over 22,000 people donating $1 and/or joining the registry as an organ and tissue donor.

In fact, Laurel County ranks in the upper levels of tissue and organ donation support. Shannon Adkins with the Kentucky Trust for Life program said that Laurel County lists 56 percent of residents of age 16 and older on the organ donor registry, placing it in the 52nd spot of Kentucky's 120 counties. The hundreds who agreed to donate $1 for the Trust for Life program sent Laurel County to the 34th spot of its 120 counties with an average of 55 percent of those visiting the Laurel County office participating in the financial donations.

Financial donations assist with community education about the Trust for Life program, which includes school and community programs and training. The Kentucky Trust for Life is a 501c(3) non-profit organization that encourages Kentuckians to donate organs and tissue to save lives.

This tissue and organ donor program was established in 1992. Since the circuit clerk's office issues driver's licenses, the Trust for Life program is operated through their offices and allows those office workers to ask everyone who is receiving or renewing their licenses to donate $1 in support of organ donation. Since 1993, the circuit clerks across the state have collected more than $6 million from licensed drivers - $1 at a time. (Kentucky Circuit Court Clerks Trust for Life, https://courts.ky.gov)

That website states that more than 102,000 Americans - including approximately 740 Kentuckians, are on the national waiting list for organ transplants. A new name is added to that list every 14 minutes - but an average of 18 people die each day while awaiting an organ transplant.

There are many misconceptions about organ and tissue donations. Here are some facts from the KODA (Kentucky Organ Donor Affiliates) website:

ORGAN DONATION

Organ donation may occur in brain death situations, allowing a person to donate kidneys, lungs, heart, liver, pancreas and small bowel. An individual must be maintained on a respirator so that the organs remain viable for transplantation.

WHO CAN DONATE?

Those who are declared brain dead are eligible to donate organs. Medical suitability is determined in each individual case, so no one should rule themselves out. Out of all deaths that occur in the U. S. annually, approximately 1% progress to brain death.

ORGANS THAT CAN BE DONATED

• Heart

• Kidneys

• Liver

• Lungs

• Pancreas

• Small Bowel

WHAT IS BRAIN DEATH?

• The total irreversible cessation of ALL brain activity, including cerebellum, cerebrum and the brain stem;

• An established medical and legal diagnosis of death, defined by Harvard criteria;

• Brain Death IS Death.

WHAT HAPPENS WHEN BRAIN DEATH OCCURS?

• A patient is treated for a severe injury to the brain

• Despite all medical efforts, the patient's brain swells and cuts off its own oxygen supply.

• Without blood and oxygen flow, all brain tissue dies within a few minutes.

• Tests and examinations to confirm brain death are performed:

◦ The patient shows a total lack of specific responses and reflexes when a clinical exam is performed;

◦ Testing confirms that brain death has occurred (an EEG shows no electrical activity in the brain) or a cerebral blood flow scan shows a total absence of blood flow to the brain.

• Artificial support systems may maintain functions such as heartbeat and respiration for a few days - not permanently.

• The patient's family is informed of their loved one's death and the option of organ and tissue donation is offered.

njohnson@sentinel-echo.com

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