Organ donation an inspiring act

Giving life to others amid a moment of tragedy and grief is a heroic, generous act.

Organ donors do just that.

An estimated 1,300 Indiana residents and 114,000 people across America await organ transplants, according to the Indiana Donor Network. Every 10 minutes, a new name joins the list in the U.S. Every day, 20 people in the nation die because a donor organ was not available.

A 25-year-old electrician from Terre Haute, Danny Joe Smith, gave the gift of life to others Friday. Smith suffered a traumatic brain injury in a motorcycle accident in Vermillion County last Tuesday. There was no possibility of recovery. Because Smith had earlier chosen to be an organ donor, doctors performed that operation Friday before his passing.

Family, friends and hospital staff on Friday lined a hallway inside Indianapolis Methodist Hospital, leading from the intensive care unit to a surgery suite, as Smith’s bed was wheeled through on a journey known as a “donor walk.”

“We want everybody to know what a loving man he was, what a loving man he is and the loving thing he is doing,” said Jayna Jones Sullivan, Smith’s mother-in-law.

Her family has dealt with heartache in the past 14 months. Smith died from the motorcycle accident, which also injured his wife, Rachael. In March 2018, Rachael’s brother, Garrett Sands, died in a shooting.

The Terre Haute community extends its thoughts and prayers on behalf of the family coping with those losses. The townspeople also can follow Danny Joe Smith’s live-saving generosity by registering to become organ donors.

Potential donors can register online through the United Network for Organ Sharing or (UNOS) at registerme.org. That network is a nonprofit agency responsible for ensuring that donated organs are fairly distributed. Hoosiers can also register as organ donors at any Indiana Bureau of Motor Vehicles branch. The Indiana Donor Network website, indianadonornetwork.org, offers answers to multiple questions, as well.

Organ donations increased in 2018, according to UNOS. More than 36,500 transplants were performed nationwide, setting a record for the sixth consecutive year. Still, more than 6,500 candidates died without receiving a transplant in 2017. So, the need remains strong.

The Indiana Donor Network explains that almost any person can become a donor, despite age or medical conditions. The viability of organs and tissues can be determined by physicians at the donor’s time of death. Organs that can be transplanted are numerous, from the kidneys, heart, lungs, liver, pancreas and intestines to tissues such as corneas, skin, heart valves, and bones, veins and tendons.

Those donations extend lives and better a recipient’s quality of life. With liver transplant recipients, for example, more than 72 percent are still living five years after the procedure, and more than half live another 20 years or more, according to a Medical News Today report last year.

The Wabash Valley has witnessed such an example of giving. That act should give us all pause and inspiration to do the same.