National Organ Donor Awareness

April 1, 2005
By 2010, experts project 1 in10 will need an organ transplant.

by Cheryl A. Thomas, RDH

By 2010, experts project 1 in10 will need an organ transplant.

o one could make us laugh or cry like Erma Bombeck. Erma had an extraordinary talent for making us look at life through humor. Though many are familiar with her nationally syndicated column and books, many are unaware that shortly before Erma’s death, she received a kidney transplant. After a courageous fight with breast cancer, Erma’s kidneys failed due to polycystic kidney disease (PKD), an inherited kidney disorder.

April is National Organ Donor Awareness Month, and today 87,208 people await a second chance at life. Every 13 minutes, another name is added to the organ donor waiting list. Organ transplantation is no longer considered experimental, with experts projecting that by 2010, one in 10 people will be in need of a life-saving organ transplant.

In 1994, an American family - while in Italy - lost their beloved son, Nicholas, and courageously donated the organs of their seven-year-old. Although the Green family lost Nicholas to violence, their one act of kindness had a rippled effect across the world. This led to a worldwide increase in organ donor awareness and is known as “The Nicholas Effect.” Because of the Green family’s act of kindness, organ donation rates in Italy have almost tripled.

Olympic Bronze Medalist snowboarder Chris Klug (liver recipient), Erik Compton of the Professional Golfers Association (heart recipient), and Sean Elliot of the NBA’s San Antonio Spurs (kidney recipient) are just a few of the celebrities who have benefited from organ donation. All-star running back Walter Payton passed away while awaiting a liver transplant, and singer Barry White passed away while awaiting a kidney transplant.

More importantly, organ donation is now touching our own lives and families. Fewer than 100 celebrities have received organ transplants; however, 25,000 people receive transplants every year. There remain an overwhelming number of people on the national waiting list. In 2003, 6,000 people died before they could receive the gift of life. Organ transplantation offers hope to the desperately ill and their families. For those fortunate enough to receive a transplant, it is a life-changing event.

Whether or not you support organ donation, it is very important that you share your wishes with your family. A signed donor card or signing the back of your driver’s license is encouraged, but the family’s wishes are always honored in cases of potential donors. Although discussing your own mortality with close relatives can be uncomfortable, it is a gift to your family to share this information beforehand. If you choose to become an organ and tissue donor, you may save or improve the lives of 50 people.

Erma Bombeck passed away in 1996 due to complications from her kidney transplant. In 2004, her son also received a kidney transplant due to polycystic kidney disease. His fiancée donated a kidney to him and he is, reportedly, recovering well. If Erma had recovered from her transplant, I am sure that she would be sharing her love of life through her stories and her humor. Share your wishes with your loved ones, and remember how one family’s act of kindness can change the world.

More information about organ donation can be found at

Cheryl A. Thomas, RDH, currently resides in Galveston, Texas. She can be contacted at [email protected], or visit her Web site at

If I Had My Life to Live Over
by Erma Bombeck

Someone asked me the other day if I had my life to live over, would I change anything.

My answer was no, but then I thought about it and changed my mind.

If I had my life to live over again I would have waxed less and listened more.

Instead of wishing away nine months of pregnancy and complaining about the shadow over my feet, I’d have cherished every minute of it and realized that the wonderment growing inside me was to be my only chance in life to assist God in a miracle.

I would never have insisted the car windows be rolled up on a summer day because my hair had just been teased and sprayed.

I would have invited friends over to dinner even if the carpet was stained and the sofa faded.

I would have eaten popcorn in the “good” living room and worried less about the dirt when you lit the fireplace.

I would have taken the time to listen to my grandfather ramble about his youth.

I would have burnt the pink candle that was sculptured like a rose before it melted in storage.

I would have sat cross-legged on the lawn with my children and never worried about grass stains.

I would have cried and laughed less while watching television ... and more while watching real life.

I would have shared more of the responsibility carried by my husband.

I would have eaten less cottage cheese and more ice cream.

I would have gone to bed when I was sick instead of pretending the Earth would go into a holding pattern if I weren’t there for a day.

I would have never bought ANYTHING just because it was practical/wouldn’t show soil/guaranteed to last a lifetime.

When my child kissed me impetuously, I would never have said, “Later. Now, go get washed up for dinner.”

There would have been more I love yous ... more I’m sorrys ... more I’m listenings ... but mostly, given another shot at life, I would seize every minute of it ... look at it and really see it ... try it on ... live it ... exhaust it ... and never give that minute back until there was nothing left of it ...

Reprinted with permission of the Aaron M. Priest Literary Agency.