The Waiting List and Other Concerns
Many waiting transplant recipients erroneously believe that the waiting list is like a ladder - that they are added to the bottom of the list and move up as recipients ahead of them receive their transplants. Not so. The list is in order of matching priority as indicated, according to medical criteria, length of time waiting, blood type, body weight, size of their present diseased organ(s), and severity of illness. The list is blind to age, sex, and race.
Recipients do not necessarily move up the list. For example, if a waiting recipient has blood type O, his or her name will not appear on the list as a potential recipient for a donor with blood type B. Even though one may have waited longer than another, he or she may not receive the next available organ(s). The list is constantly changing.
Each potential recipient has an equal chance at receiving a transplant. Many medical factors related to a proper match enter the equation. The UNOS registry was designed to assure the equitable sharing of available transplantable organs.
The media may help boost the general awareness of the need for organ donation, but they do not enhance a particular patient's chances of receiving an organ. Some waiting transplant recipients publicize their need through radio and television. Others send letters to physicians and transplant centers describing their medical condition. Well-intentioned letters and media coverage have no influence on the distribution of available organs. All matches are made from the UNOS national registry. Preferential treatment does not exist.
Organ Donation Awareness
OPO's (organ procurement centers) communicate the importance of organ donation through a network of volunteers, donor family members, waiting transplant patients and their families. These volunteers participate in a speaker's bureau and help staff booths at health fairs.
Donor Family Identity
The identities of donor families and transplant recipients are kept anonymous and confidential. The donor family that decides to contribute at a time of great personal loss makes a deeply personal and private decision.
If a recipient chooses to write to the donor family, he or she may give or send the card or letter to the transplant coordinator, who will forward the correspondence to an organ procurement center, which in turn will send it on. Many donor families gain a sense of comfort knowing that their gift of life has made a difference.