Tuesday, October 27, 2015

EDITORIAL >> State needing organ donors

Kristy and Rodney Cotillier of Cabot got to listen to their son’s heart earlier this month. Their 16-year-old son was an organ donor, and his heart has given new life to a 20-year-old in Iowa.

Even though Evan Cotillier suffered from epilepsy, his death was as unexpected as any 16-year-old’s. A month before his death, he impressed upon his parents to make sure his organs were donated.

“It was the easier decision we made during his death,” the parents said.

Now they are pushing for others, of all ages, to make sure they are organ donors.

“We know Evan’s heart, kidneys and liver saved people,” Kristy Cotillier said. “His eyes and tissue were also donated.”

About 1.2 million Arkansans (about 57 percent of the state) are signed up as organ donors, yet ARORA (Arkansas Regional Organ Recovery Agency) recovered only 123 organs in 2014.

And, at any given time in Arkansas, there are at least 300 patients on the waiting list for new organs. Why the disparity?

Audrey Coleman, director of communications for ARORA, said that’s because only 1 percent of donors die in a manner to be eligible to donate their organs. “You have to die in the hospital, and your death usually has to be a brain death. That greatly narrows down the possibilities, but should not stop anyone from signing up to donate,” she said.

That’s one of the many reasons the Cotilliers are pushing for more people to sign up. Research also shows that many people are reluctant to register as donors because of myths floating out there.

Below are some of the most common myths, along with the facts, according to ARORA:

Myth: If emergency room doctors know you’re an organ donor, they won’t work as hard to save you.

Fact: If you are sick or injured and admitted to the hospital, the No. 1 priority is to save your life. Organ donation can only be considered after brain death has been declared by a physician. Also, your treating physician is not the doctor who would perform the organ recovery.

Myth: The “rich and famous” receive priority on the organ waiting list.

Fact: When you are on the transplant waiting list for a donor organ, what really counts is the severity of your illness, time spent waiting, blood type and other important medical information.

Myth: Your family members can block your decision to become an organ or tissue donor, even if you are in the donor registry.

Fact: In Arkansas, your family cannot revoke your decision to register as a donor. However, it’s important to talk to your family about your decision to donate so they are aware of your wishes and will feel comfortable honoring them.

Myth: Only hearts, livers and kidneys can be transplanted.

Fact: Needed organs include the heart, kidneys, pancreas, lungs, liver and intestines. Tissue that can be donated include the eyes, skin, bone, heart valves and tendons.

Myth: I’m too old to be a donor.

Fact: People of all ages and medical histories should consider themselves potential donors. Your medical condition at the time of death will determine what organs and tissue can be donated.

Myth: Organ donation is expensive.

Fact: There is no cost to the donor’s family or estate for organ and tissue donation.

Myth: Organ donation disfigures the body and it’s not possible to have an open-casket funeral.

Fact: Donated organs are removed surgically, in a routine operation similar to gallbladder or appendix removal. Donation does not change the appearance of the body for the funeral service.

Myth: My religion doesn’t allow organ donation.

Fact: Almost all major organized religions approve of organ and tissue donation and consider it an act of charity.

For more details on donating organs, call ARORA at 501-907-9150.

“At 16, my son was still a boy, but his decision to donate showed me he was a better man than I was, and I love him for that,” Rodney Cottilier said. “I will always look up to him.”