PD Editorial: Give the gift of life in the new year
During the holiday season, we celebrate gratitude, giving and new beginnings. The inspiring story of Kirk Brandt and his family encapsulates all of those ideals.
Brandt, a 38-year-old man known for his generosity and compassion, was seriously injured in a car accident in Lake County in October. His family, mindful of his desire to help people in need, made the difficult decision to remove him from life support and donate his organs for transplant.
“We couldn’t get him back,” his sister Mariah said. “But donating his organs really gave us something to hold onto, the feeling that something good could come out of this tragedy.”
In somewhat of a departure from the usual donation process, Brandt’s family appealed to people they knew to identify anyone in need of a transplant. Within hours, they had a list of 28 potential recipients. Specialists at Sierra Donor Services evaluated the list, and three of the 28 received Brandt’s organs and a fourth went to an anonymous recipient.
As The Press Democrat’s Austin Murphy recently reported, the recipients include Jim Siler, a Georgia man in the final stages of renal failure. He’d spent four years awaiting a kidney when a friend of a friend of a friend of the Brandt family relayed word of a possible match.
The transplant was a success, and Siler is recovering. His long wait for help is not unusual. More than 20,000 Californians and 107,000 people nationwide currently await organs. Every day, 21 of them die waiting.
Signing up to give a final gift of life is simple. Most Americans do so when they obtain or renew their driver’s license. Donors can also register on an iPhone health app or by visiting RegisterMe.org.
But you don’t have to wait until the end to save someone’s life. Blood donors are always in demand. Nonprofit organizations like the American Red Cross and Vitalant report that December donations are below need, particularly for type O blood and platelets. That leaves hospitals worried there might not be enough blood for the next person who arrives in the emergency room or heads to surgery.
Both the Red Cross and Vitalant have scheduled blood drives at locations throughout the region. Schedules and registration are available on their respective websites.
Some people who couldn’t donate blood for decades are once again eligible, too. Anyone who had spent some time in the United Kingdom, Ireland or France between 1980 and 2001 had been ineligible to be a blood donor over concerns about the potential for mad cow disease. In light of better medical evidence, that restriction was lifted this year.
Whether it’s donating blood now or an organ after death, such acts of kindness can transform and save lives. When you give blood or organs, you give a part of yourself without any expectation of something in return. In most cases you will never even know who benefited from your selfless act. That is the true spirit of generosity.
As Nan Siler says of her husband’s new beginning. “I never dreamed we’d really get to this point. It’s magic.” Magic that’s within all of us.
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