When it comes to organ donation, you may be surprised to learn how many different organs from one donor can be used to save the lives of up to seven people and improve the lives of many more.
What organs can be donated?
We often think of the heart, pancreas, lungs, intestine, kidneys and liver as the vital organs that can be donated to save lives. While these organs are very much necessary to live, there are other organs, or more specifically – organ tissues – that are in high demand and, thanks to transplantation, can improve and save the lives of many people.
Organ tissues can be used to treat a wide variety of conditions, some of which may be life threatening. Here is a list of tissues from http://www.donatelife.gov.au that can be donated and how they can affect the lives of the individuals in need:
Eye tissue donation
Donation of eye tissue can allow transplantation of the cornea and the sclera. The cornea is the clear tissue which covers the coloured part of the eye. It allows light to pass through to the retina, giving sight. Corneal transplants can restore sight to people who are partially or completely blind. The sclera is the white part that surrounds the eye. Scleral grafts are performed to prevent blindness due to injury or in people who have had cancer removed from their eye.
Donated bone tissue can be grafted to replace bone which has been lost as a result of tumours or through other disease or accidents. It is also used to aid fracture healing, strengthen hip and knee joint replacements, and to repair curvatures of the spine (scoliosis) in children and teenagers. Depending on the type of transplant required over ten people can benefit from a single bone donation.
People who have suffered extensive trauma, infection damaging or destroying the skin, or severe burns can require skin grafts to become healthy again.
Heart tissue donation
While the heart can be donated as a whole organ, heart tissues can also be donated separately. Donated heart tissues such as heart valves are primarily used to repair congenital defects in young children and babies. The tissue is also used to replace diseased valves in adults.
Tendons are tough, flexible tissues found throughout the body that connect muscles to bone and cartilage. Donated tendons are usually used to reconstruct injured knees in young people, usually following sports injuries.
Cartilage is used to help reconstruct parts of the body after an injury or during joint replacement surgery.
No matter who you are, what race or ethnicity, how young or old you are, signing up to be an organ donor is truly a selfless act that can have a huge impact on the lives of so many people.