Organ Donation and IBD: Setting the record straight

Are you an organ donor? For some, this may seem like a simple question, for others it’s complicated. I’ve been reading posts on social media that claim if you have inflammatory bowel disease, you are not “eligible” or able to be an organ donor.

bill

Hanging out with my cousin Bill at an organ donation event.

This caused me to pause and question whether that is truly the case. The decision to be an organ donor was a no-brainer for me. My entire life, I’ve been inspired by my cousin, Bill, who’s a two-time heart and one-time kidney recipient. To say I’m passionate about organ donation is an understatement.

So, I ventured out to interview Dr. Gary Marklin, Chief Medical Officer, for Mid-America Transplant in St. Louis, to learn more about IBD and organ and tissue donation. As an organ procurement organization, Mid-America Transplant covers eastern Missouri, southern Illinois and northern Arkansas.

At this moment, more than 115,000 people are waiting for a life-saving phone call. Last year, a historical number of transplants ever were conducted in the U.S., at almost 34,000…but there are a lot of people who don’t receive the gift of life in time. IMG_0613Each day, about 22 people die waiting for the phone to ring. That’s about one person an hour.

When it comes to those of us with Crohn’s disease or ulcerative colitis the quality of our organs is studied at the time of donation. But, it’s key to note—this is the case for ALL donors, regardless of your medical history.

“Crohn’s and ulcerative colitis can effect organs other than the intestines, and if they are not working well, then you’re probably not able to donate that particular organ. But, in general, Crohn’s and ulcerative colitis do not exclude you from organ donation,” said Dr. Marklin.

The same goes for tissue donation. Tissue is skin, bone and corneas. Depending on where IBD is located and how it’s impacted the body, certain tissues may be excluded.

image1 (2)“What we do with any donor—no matter what—is assess the function of every single organ. So, for instance if the kidney, lung or liver function isn’t up to par due to long-term disease process or from long-term side effects from medications, the organ will not be transplanted. The last thing we want to do is transplant an organ and have the recipient develop a disease from a transplanted organ,” said Dr. Marklin.

This led to wonder if long-term use of biologic drugs, such as Humira, makes a difference.

“The only risk biologic drugs pose for transplantation is increased risk for infections. If you’re on Humira, which caused you to contract tuberculosis, then you’re not going to be a donor. Just being on the medication itself, does not limit you from being a donor though,” Dr. Marklin explained.

So, if you battle IBD—don’t let that hold you back from signing up to be an organ donor. The only organ you definitely would not be able to donate are your intestines, and let’s be honest… that’s not a big surprise! The odds are in your favor that you’ll get to provide others with a chance at life. Every time a family or person says “no” to organ donation, on average three people do not receive the lifesaving organ transplant they need. You have the power to save up to eight lives and help heal 75 more through tissue donation.

natandbillAs someone who’s battled Crohn’s disease for more than 12 years, and as someone who’s witnessed firsthand the incredible ripple effect created by organ donation within my own family—I can’t reiterate enough, how imperative it is to be a donor.

If you’re hesitant—imagine your parents, siblings or best friend on their death bed, anxiously awaiting word an organ is available. Would you want their life to be cut short because someone chose not to be a donor? As people who battle IBD we know how important quality of life is, and how quickly it can be taken away. Sign up. Be a donor. Know in your heart that if there’s an accident, that your life will continue through someone else—and not just them, but all their family members and friends. Click here to enroll to be an organ donor. Click here for additional organ and tissue donation information.

 

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