The Enid News and Eagle, Enid, OK

November 9, 2013

Pioneer-Pleasant Vale Lions information event about organ donation slated Saturday at mall

By Robert Barron, Staff Writer
Enid News and Eagle

ENID, Okla. — The importance of organ donation will be the subject of an information event Saturday sponsored by Pioneer-Pleasant Vale Lions Club at Oakwood Mall.

Joining the club that day will be Shari England of Medford, a liver transplant recipient. England underwent a transplant in August 2001 and now is living a normal life. The event will be 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Pioneer-Pleasant Vale Lions Club booth will have information available about organ donations, and England will discuss her procedure and answer questions.

The organ donation booth is the brainchild of Franny and Virginia Rodriguez, who both are members of Pioneer-Pleasant Vale Lions Club.

Franny was watching a discussion about organ transplants on television and made the suggestion his club should take it on as a project.

“Lions are one of the most active organizations regarding eye problems, sponsor an eye bank and people with glasses, why not include organ donations?” Rodriguez said. “I’ve never heard of an organ donation day.”

Virginia called Oklahoma LifeShare and asked for the name of someone in the area who would be interested in working the organ day with them. Subsequently, England called back.

Virginia is a retired RN who worked with organ recovery at a hospital in Kansas.

“People are not aware how they can help others and save a life. Nobody talks about it, and it’s very important to save a life,” she said.

There is a nationwide shortage of organs, and Virginia Rodriguez said that should not happen. There are more than 900 people just on the Oklahoma waiting list. One person donating his or her organs can help 14 people, she said.

“You don’t realize how many people you help by donating,” she said.

Donating one’s organs means that the eyes, corneas, lungs, liver, pancreas, intestine, veins, tendons, heart, kidneys, bones and even skin are available for various medical uses.

Friday through Nov. 17 has been designated as National Donor Sabbath by LifeShare, which offers transplant and donor services. Information from the group states members of faith communities focus on the life-affirming gifts of hope passed to others by organ, eye, tissue, marrow and blood donors.

Many faith leaders reportedly participate in services and programs to educate their congregations about donation and transplantation and the critical need for donors.

Virginia Rodriguez suggested families can discuss it during the Thanksgiving holiday.

“When families get together, if any family member is donating their organs, they can let their families know how they feel and make sure they understand,” she said. “Nobody wants to talk about death.”

Tammye Green, of LifeShare, said her organization is the organ procurement agency of Oklahoma. They educate the public, work with hospitals when there is a potential donor and help maintain the donor registry. There are more than 900 on the waiting list in Oklahoma and more than 120,000 nationwide.

“We actually have more than half the population in Oklahoma in the donor registry. It depends on the circumstances of death whether they can be a donor,” Green said.

When a person signs to become a donor, whether on a driver’s license or online, hospitals are required to contact the family when that person dies. With each occurrence, they screen the person, then staff will speak with family and start the process, Green said. They once were required to obtain permission from the family, whether the individual had given permission or not. They no longer have to do that.

The most commonly transplanted organ is the kidney. There are more people waiting for kidneys and many people on dialysis, she said. Living donations are becoming more common.

Jeff Orlowski, CEO of LifeShare, said donations are two-fold. There are thousands of people on the waiting list nationally, and every day, nearly 20 die.  

“Organ donors allow them to help people who have no chance of getting help,” Orlowski said.

It also creates a legacy for the person who makes the donation. Orlowski said sometimes the donation even helps heal the grieving process for family members to know that part of their loved one will live on.

“One common thing is people think they are too old. There is no chronological age, it depends on the health of the organ. Routinely, we do them on people up into their 70s,” he said.

There are a number of events across the state that promote organ donation, like the Pioneer Pleasant-Vale Lions Club day at Oakwood Mall.

One important misconception about donation is that is if someone signs up as a donor, hospitals will not treat them but will just take their organs. Orlowski said that is wrong.

“Very few hospitals do transplants, and health care is designed to save someone’s life,” he said. “If someone does not survive, it becomes a completely different part of health care. That idea is ill-founded. The second important misconception is that it is against an individual’s religion. There is no major religion practiced in American that has not come out in support of organ donation.

“It’s very simple to make a difference. All you have to do is join the state registry,” he said.

The Oklahoma registry includes 64 percent of the population.

The organ donation education day at Oakwood Mall is the first Virginia and Franny Rodriguez think has been done in this area. In addition to the Lions Club, it is sponsored by LifeShare of Oklahoma, Oklahoma Lions Eye Bank and Jacksons of Enid.