July 17, 2024

Healt Hid

Because health is very important to us

LifeCenter participates in Senior Living Expo

3 min read

One of my favorite events LifeCenter Organ Donor Network (LifeCenter) participates in is the Clermont Senior Services Senior Living Expo. On June 13, we participated in the Expo, and brought out our prize wheel and Plinko — yes, like from The Price is Right! — and had a fun time engaging with the community about organ, eye, and tissue donation.

A common refrain we hear from the aging community, however, is that they are too old to be donors. “Nobody would want my organs.” Whether individuals think that because of their medical history and/or because the organs are “old,” I understand the refrain. I’ve heard it from the older adults in my life, too, such as my grandmother and great aunt.

These beliefs can stem from any number of places, including word-of-mouth from other individuals (often using exceptional anecdotes), their primary care physician who wouldn’t necessarily be educated about donation and transplantation, and even what seems like logical thinking: “I’m too old, and I’ve had X, Y and Z medical issues; therefore.”

The good news is, you are never too old to be an organ, eye, and tissue donor. Whatever your medical history, including cancer as we discussed in my previous column, and age, you could still be eligible for organ, eye and tissue donation. Medical eligibility will be determined by the doctors at the time of your death.

In fact, a 98-year-old man from St. Louis made national news in June for being the oldest organ donor in United States history. Orville Allen, a veteran of both World War II and the Korean War, died on May 29, and donated his liver to a 72-year-old woman, according to Mid-America Transplant, the organ procurement organization in the region.

Which also answers a second refrain we often hear in the community: “I’m too old to receive a transplant.” The 72-year-old woman who now has a second chance at life, thanks to the gift of Allen’s liver, provides an example to the contrary.

“It turned it from being such a sad loss of our dad to having this little ray of joy because he was doing what he’d done all his life. He was giving one more gift,” Linda Mitchelle, his daughter, said, according to the Associated Press (AP).

My grandmother on my father’s side, Cheryl Arnold, died on May 20 after a short stay in hospice. She would have been 75-years-old later this summer. We were grateful she was able to donate her corneas and give the gift of sight back to two other people. Legacies are formed in giving back and leaving something beautiful behind.

Maybe you’re thinking these are exceptional anecdotes. The numbers back up the anecdotes: Annually, one out of every three people who donate organs are over the age of 50. Indeed, 50 to 64 is the most common age range for organ donation from deceased donors, surpassing those aged 35 to 49. Last year, people 65 years and older accounted for 1,140 deceased organ donors, or nearly 8 percent of all donations.

What about recipients? In 2023, 64 percent of all the people who received organ transplants were 50 or older, and 23 percent were 65 or older. That’s extraordinary. So many people now have second chances with their fathers, mothers, grandmothers, grandfathers, great aunts, great uncles, brothers, and sisters. They have a second chance at life, thanks to people — at any age! — deciding to be donors.

To say it one more time, donation is possible at any age. Possible. Hope. Second chances. Life-saving. Making a difference. These are sentiments we should never close ourselves off, too.

“To me, it’s just a wonderful thing to be able to help somebody else, anybody else, to extend their life for their family,” Greg Allen, Orville Allen’s son, said, according to the AP.

Exactly right, Greg.

To register your decision, you can do so at your local BMV, on their website, or at lifepassiton.org/register.

If you ever have any questions or concerns, please reach out to me via email at [email protected]. You can also mail your inquiries to:

LifeCenter Organ Donor Network

615 Elsinore Pl, Suite 400

Cincinnati, OH 45202

Brett Milam is the Communications Associate with LifeCenter.

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