Signing up to be an organ donor in Massachusetts and New Hampshire is as simple as checking a box when you apply for or renew your driver’s license. 

What you get in return is a small red heart on your license that tells emergency responders and doctors you are a willing donor. You also get a rare chance to save many lives. 

Some organs can be donated while you are alive, and we have all read stories about how a living donor gave a kidney or part of his or her liver to save another person’s life. But most organ donations take place after a person dies, and that’s where the decision to go on record as an organ donor gets real for most people.

The better part of the organ donation story comes from people like Virginia Crocker of Amesbury, who received a life-saving liver transplant. She now works as an ambassador for the United Network for Organ Sharing, which runs the largest organ transplant network for the federal government. Over the past year, UNOS coordinated and documented 35,890 transplants across the country, down from a record 39,718 in 2019, but still impressive given how the pandemic affected the health care system. 

UNOS says there are 110,000 people awaiting organ transplants in the U.S. on any given day.

According to the UNOS database, in Massachusetts there were 91 living organ donations and 168 donations by deceased people in 2020; in New Hampshire, 32 living donors gave organs while organs from 29 dead individuals were donated. 

In a letter to the editor, Crocker said that as an organ recipient she supports the work of UNOS because “each day lives are being saved in our community through organ donation and transplantation – lives like mine. My connection to transplantation is because I am a liver recipient and am able to live my life and enjoy my family as a result.”

The people whose daily existence is inextricably linked to the idea of organ donation are people on the transplant list, waiting for a life-saving donor, those who have received an organ, like Crocker, and are living their lives fully, and the survivors of a deceased organ donor, who have the small comfort of knowing their loved one’s death might have saved a life.

The rest of us don’t have to think about it much. We can just check the box to volunteer as organ donors, when that time comes, and get on with our lives. 

To register as an organ donor go to donatelife.net or sign up the next time you renew or apply for a driver’s license.

 

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