President Joe Biden proclaimed April 2022 National Donate Life Month, while continuing the tradition of encouraging organ donation. Within the proclamation, Biden urged more Americans to become organ, eye, tissue, marrow, and blood donors. Additionally, the president celebrated and honored donors, healthcare professionals who work in the transplantation field, and individuals who supported loved ones within making the decision to donate their organs.
Americans who sign up to donate organs such as kidneys, livers, hearts, and lungs can positively impact ill patients on waiting lists. Improving quality of life, or making a life-saving organ gift, can prove to be a priceless investment in them.
Donate Life Maryland (DLM) —which is led by Executive Director Lisa Spicknall— stays busy throughout the year promoting organ donation messages. Baltimore-based DLM Baltimore has been around since 2007. The state-authorized nonprofit organization strives to save and enhance lives through registering organ, eye and tissue donors. Another aspect of the organization’s vision is to spread that message that every “Marylander can make an educated decision about organ eye and tissue donation and registering as a donor.” The Maryland Donor Registry confidentially houses names of Marylanders who are organ, eye, and tissue donors. According to DLM’s website, the registry was set in motion in 2009.
Spicknall has been working in her position since 2020. She oversees maintaining an important piece of giving the gift of life.
“So all 2.2 million Marylanders who are registered to be organ donors, I am in charge of that registry, first and foremost,” Spicknall said, explaining what her duties entail. “And then also outreach and any legislation.”
DLM’s executive director also keeps up with legislative activity to determine the organization’s stance which enables the organization to work with legislators. But despite constantly working to achieve life-giving goals, Spicknall’s duties do not come without needing to dispel organ donation myths.
“The biggest one, I think, is that hospitals or first responders won’t save ‘me’ if I’m a registered donor, and that’s just not true. What we know is hospitals and first responders are going to do absolutely everything that they can to save you. And generally, they don’t even know if you’re an organ donor. So, the first thing that someone’s doing, they’re not checking your organ donation status. Their first and primary focus is on you,” Spicknall said.
Another misconception that Spicknall mentioned is that ill, rich or famous people are prioritized on organ donation lists. No priority is given, according to DLM’s executive director. Severity of their health condition, time spent waiting for a donation, blood type, and any other critical medical information that may influence the transplant list position.
It is critical to note that the organ donation topic impacts ordinary people, too. More than 100,000 U.S.-based men, women, and children need a life-saving organ transplant, per information provided in Biden’s recent proclamation.
“Last year, because of the charity and generosity of the American people, our nation’s transplant experts performed more than 41,000 organ transplants — a record number. We saw organ donations from deceased donors set an annual record for the 11th consecutive year. Living donor transplants, which decreased significantly in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic, increased with over 6,500 living donor transplants performed,” Biden said. “Despite our progress, our nation continues to face a critical shortage of organ donors, and the number of people in need of a transplant is high, with 17 people dying every day while waiting for a transplant.”
Information provided by www.organdonor.gov reminded that age or medical history does not restrict an individual from deciding to sign up to be a donor. A single donor can save eight lives and improve more than 75 additional ones, according to provided details. Biden also mentioned alarming waitlist data. People of color almost comprise 60 percent of individuals who are waiting for an organ transplant.
With all of this in mind, Spicknall’s call to action is simple. She wants more individuals to become registered organ donors. Potential Maryland donors may sign up while renewing their driver’s license at the Motor Vehicle Administration, or it can be done online through DLM.
“You can save up to eight lives and really, really help someone who’s in need, if you do face that tragic circumstance of dying,” Spicknall said. “Understand the myths and misconceptions. Reach out to us to ask the questions and let us help you make the best decision for you.”
Visit www.donatelifemaryland.org to learn more about Donate Life Maryland’s online donor registration.