Organ transplants such as hearts, livers and kidneys usually attract media attention because of the drama associated with life-saving operations. The potential donor family often find it difficult to make the donation decision, because different from the Tissue donor, the Organ donor is brain dead. This means that he/she still feels warm to the touch and because of the ventilator, is still breathing artificially. The first step therefore is to accept the reality of death, even though the patient may look like he is only sleeping.
Several brain stem death tests are performed by two independent physicians who does not form part of the transplant team. The death is then documented and the option of donation offered to the family in a sympathetic and sensitive manner.
Organs are retrieved in a hospital theatre and transplanted within just a few hours.
These lifesaving procedures are only possible because generous people are willing to donate their organs and tissues. Despite the fact that transplantation is an accepted medical practice, many people who need transplants cannot get them because there simply is not enough to go around.
To increase the number of transplants is the responsibility of us all. If enough people express their willingness to become donors, the shortage may be alleviated and thousands of people can return to healthy and productive lives.