For most of us, Valentine’s Day calls to mind images of candy hearts, fancy chocolates and flowers galore, but this ubiquitous holiday is important for another reason as well: February 14th is also recognized as National Organ Donor Day. There is perhaps no better day to celebrate such a selfless act as organ donation, because when you become a donor, you are essentially giving the gift of love and life to your fellow man. For the multiplied thousands of people who are currently on the waiting list for organ or tissue transplants, receiving this invaluable gift can mean a second chance at life, or possibly being in a position to enjoy a higher quality of life without having to depend upon expensive routine treatments.
One powerful example of how organ donation can give new life can be seen in the story of Asia Werner, a teenager who was born in December 1999 with several congenital heart defects. She had not even made it to her first birthday yet when she entered into heart failure, and was in urgent need of a heart transplant in order to save her life. As her family was preparing for what appeared to be a tragic outcome, something life-changing happened on the exact day of her first birthday – Asia received a donor heart that was a perfect match. The surgery was performed the very next morning, and by Christmas Day, Asia was taken off the ventilator. She is now a happy, thriving and lively teen who has aspirations to become a doctor when she grows up, so that she can help others in the same way she was helped.
Asia is not alone – there are thousands of amazing and inspiring stories of people whose lives were saved and changed forever due to the generosity of an organ or tissue donor. In many cases, one donor’s act of selflessness has been able to save multiple lives. In fact, statistics show that one person’s decision to become an organ donor can produce a “ripple effect” that can save up to eight lives through donating vital organs such as the kidneys, the heart, the liver, the pancreas, the lungs, and the intestines. In addition, through tissue and eye donation, it is possible for just one donor to positively affect the lives of up to fifty recipients.
Thousands of poems, books and songs have been written about love, and while the definition of this universal term can vary greatly based upon whom you ask, most of us would agree that giving is a good way to show it. Along with all of the traditional fun of Valentine’s Day, let February 14th – National Organ Donor Day – serve to remind and encourage you about the importance of giving the gift of life through organ donation. While you may never fully know just how far-reaching of an effect you can have through deciding to become an organ or tissue donor, you can be confident that your decision to give a gift of inestimable value to another human being is one of the best ways to share the love that this important day represents.