By Cristin Ross
Palestine resident Gwen Smith is no stranger to sharing. She’s an organ donor.
“My grandma was on dialysis when I was a child and I’ve known other people on it, too,” said Smith (not her real name). “It’s not a fun process. People have to suffer through it for a while before getting (an organ donation). Sometimes they never do.”
Smith said because of her grandmother, she became an organ donor as soon as she was able.
“A lot of blind people could be seeing right now, if there were more organ donors,” she said. “There’s a lot of people in the ground right now that had perfectly good eyes. It’s just a big waste.”
She also joined LifeSharers, a non-profit network of organ donors who agree to offer their organs first to other group members when they die.
“I read about it in a Time magazine while I was sitting in my doctor’s office,” she recalled. “I thought it was fair — give the people who are willing to be donors first chance if they should need a donation.
“When I realized how easy it was to sign up, I joined,” Smith said.
Smith explains the group works as an incentive to inspire more people to become organ donors.
“You join the pool, and as the pool gets bigger you have a better chance of finding a match,” she said. “As a member who needs a transplant, you are given priority when a matching member’s organ becomes available.
More than half of the 99,000 Americans on the national waiting list will die before they get a transplant, according to LifeSharers Executive Director David Undis.
“Americans bury or cremate about 20,000 transplantable organs every year,” he said. “Over 6,000 of their neighbors die every year as a result. There is a simple way to put a big dent in the organ shortage — give organs first to people who have agreed to donate their own organs when they die.”
LifeSharers currently has 11,412 members — 896 of them in Texas, as close as Rusk and Frankston. Members living in Cherokee County declined to be interviewed.
Membership is free. Join by visiting www.lifesharers.org or by calling 1-888-ORGAN88. There is no age limit, parents can enroll their minor children, and no one is excluded due to any pre-existing medical condition.
“It’s a better chance to help with my organs and get help if it’s ever needed,” Smith said.
By Cristin Ross
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