It’s not every day that you get the chance to save a life — and not everyone can do it. Some even miss the opportunity because they haven’t educated themselves about what it takes.

We are talking about organ donation, one of the most generous gifts you can give. Consider these statistics:

  • 119,000+ men, women and children are currently on the national transplant waiting list.
  • 22 people die each day waiting for a transplant.
  • Every 10 minutes another person is added to the waiting list.

At Keck Medicine of USC, our renowned experts at the USC Transplant Institute provide patients with a comprehensive approach to patient care from pre-transplant evaluations to long-term care. Our liver transplant program is 1 of 4 programs in the US with a statistically higher 1 year survival rate. More than 1000 kidney transplants have been performed at Keck Medicine of USC.  Organ donors are partners in our efforts to save patients’ lives.

Amid tragedy, one person can give up to eight people the precious gift of life — and improve the lives of up to 50 people with tissue and eye donations. However, there are many misconceptions about organ donation. Know the facts and consider becoming an organ donor.

How do I become an organ donor?

It’s as simple as signing up. In some states, you can become an organ donor by simply checking a box on your driver’s license form at your local DMV. However, if your state doesn’t offer this option, or if you want to ensure that your name is in the registry, you can visit the national organ donor page at www.organdonor.gov.

Do you really need me to register as a donor when there are so many other people already on the registry list?

Only 3 in 1,000 people die in a way that allows for organ donation. This means that if all 1,000 of those people are registered as organ donors, only three will have the chance to give the gift of life.

Am I too old to register as an organ donor?

There is no age restriction; people of all ages can be considered as potential donors. However, potential donors under the age of 18 must have parent or guardian authorization. The medical condition of the patient at the time of death determines which organs can be donated.

What if I’m not the healthiest person — can I still opt to donate my organs?

There are few medical conditions that will disqualify you from donating your organs. Only medical professionals on hand at the time of death can determine whether your organs are suitable for donation.

Are there additional medical expenses for organ donation?

The family of the donor does not pay the medical expense for organ donation.

What can I donate?

Organs and tissues that can be donated include the heart, kidneys, lungs, pancreas, liver, intestines, corneas, skin, tendons, bone and heart valves.

How are organs matched to recipients?

Organs are matched by blood and tissue typing, organ size, medical urgency, waiting time and geographical location.

At what point are organs made available for donation?

Organ donation can only be considered after a patient has been declared brain dead by a physician. Medical staff always focuses on saving the life of the patient in front of them. They often have no idea that someone is an organ donor until it is necessary to consider a patient’s wishes after death.

Are organ donations confidential?

Organ donation is confidential for both the donor and the recipient. Information about the organ donor is only released to the recipient if the donor’s family agrees.

Get registered: 95 percent of U.S. adults support organ donation but only 48 percent are actually signed up as donors.

Learn more about giving the gift of life by visiting www.organdonor.gov. For transplant information, visit the USC Transplant Institute at Keck Medicine of USC.

By Heidi Tyline King