The ultimate gift: five ways to give a piece of yourself and save a life

Here are five different ways that you can donate a piece of yourself to someone else and save a life:

#1 – Donate Blood
A blood donation is the simplest, easiest way to donate a piece of yourself. You go to a blood donation center, spend an hour or two there and proceed with the rest of your day. Your donated blood helps accident victims, people needing surgery, cancer patients, etc. You can learn more about donating blood and find donation centers in your area here and here and here:

#2 – Donate bone marrow
Members of Reddit have been encouraging each other to become bone marrow donors to help Leukemia patients, as seen in this post:

IAMA registered bone marrow donor because of a Reddit post. I just got notified of a match.

He describes the process in this way:

There are two kinds of donation processes. One is surgical where they would put me under general anesthesia, make up to four small incisions above my hips, insert a hollow needle into my pelvis, and draw out up to a quart of bone marrow. The second option is similar to dialysis. You are hooked up to a machine for 3-6 hours, an IV line takes blood out of one arm, passes it through a machine that withdraws the blood stem cells, and returns the rest to your other arm.

I was told that since my patient is so young the doctor will probably request the surgery. Something about the stem cells being withdrawn from the pelvis is better for infants. Don’t know, not a doctor.

The recovery time for the surgery is 2 days out of work and then take it easy for 2 weeks. The surgery should be an out patient procedure, possibly an overnight hospital stay.

You can learn more about becoming a bone marrow donor here and here:

#3 – Donate a Kidney
This article describes the increasingly popular option of donating a kidney, often to a complete stranger or as part of a swap that helps a stranger:

Pair of kidney transplants set for today to change four lives

Brad Dean is in perfect health, but just after 7:30 a.m. today, Duke University Medical Center surgeon Deepak Vikraman-Sushama will press a scalpel against his abdomen and slice.

That cut will kick off a cascade of four operations on four patients – and perhaps a new era for kidney transplants in North Carolina.

Dean, 43, president of the Myrtle Beach, S.C., Chamber of Commerce, is a so-called “altruistic donor.” He offered to give a kidney to an unknown recipient simply because he thinks it’s the right thing to do.

Altruistc kidney donations are becoming more frequent:

Ga. nurse donates kidney to patient she barely knew

You can learn more about altruistic donations here and here and here:

#4 – Become an organ donor
If you are involved in a fatal accident, you can sign up to make your organs available to people waiting for transplants. In this way, your death brings new life to others. You can learn more about organ donation here and here:

#5 – Donate your body to science after you die
After you die, your body can be donated for use in training new doctors to save lives. This article describes the process:

Most donated bodies go to medical schools. The how-to is pretty straightforward. Googling “willed body program” plus your state or poking around the Web site of your favorite med school will turn up detailed information and often a donor form. The institution may send you a wallet card to notify authorities of its claim at the time of death. Be sure to discuss the matter with your family and doctor so they’ll know what to do (and won’t freak) when the time comes.

What do med schools do with cadavers? Pretty much what you’d expect–dissection, surgery practice, etc–but a few details might not have occurred to you…

See also this article and this video:

Consider the possibilities
No matter how you choose to do it, your donation(s) will help save lives. It is an incredibly meaningful way to help your fellow human beings.

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