Donated tissues such as skin, bone, and heart valves can dramatically improve the quality of life for recipients, and even save lives.
Like cornea donation, most deceased persons are eligible to donate lifesaving and lifechanging tissues. A single tissue donor can save or improve the health of over 125 individuals. This is because tissue can be processed and stored for an extended period of time, and is used in so many different ways:
- Skin grafts save the lives of burn patients.
- Bone grafts help people whose bones have degenerated due to infection, tumors, or trauma.
- Tendons and soft tissue can help people lead more active lives - for example, by replacing an athlete's torn ACL.
- Heart valves save the lives of those suffering damage from infections, age-related diseases, or genetic conditions.
- Replacement of hip bones can restore mobility.
- Veins can help re-establish circulation.
- Nerves restore sensation and function.
- Cartilage can be used to reconstruct facial features after physical trauma.
How Tissue Donation Works
- Hospitals are required to refer all deaths to VisionGift, a not-for-profit eye bank, which simultaneously pre-screens potential tissue donors on behalf of Community Tissue Services, a not-for-profit tissue bank. If death occurs outside of a hospital setting, anyone - hospice staff, family, staff at an assisted living facility or nursing home, or even clergy - can make a referral by calling 800-605-8712.
- Donation coordinators check the Donate Life Northwest Registry to see if the patient had registered as a donor. If a patient is a registered donor, the family is informed of their loved one’s legally binding authorization for donation. In the absence of designation, the donation coordinator asks the family or legal next of kin (usually a spouse, relative, or close friend) for consent. The donation process proceeds only after the family has granted authorization.
- Donation coordinators work with the family, hospital staff, and medical examiners to thoroughly screen the patient's medical and social history.
- If the patient's history does not rule out donation, Community Tissue Services will conduct further screening to see if tissue donation is a possibility.
- At all times, the donor is treated with dignity and respect. A medical team from Community Tissue Services oversees the surgical tissue recovery procedure. Once tissue recovery has been completed, the team reconstructs and sutures the incisions. A donor family does not pay any costs associated with tissue recovery.
- Families can proceed with regular funeral arrangements. Donation does not drastically impact the appearance of the donor, nor does it delay funeral services.
- Recovered tissue grafts are rigorously screened, tested, and prepared for use in surgical procedures, ranging from heart valve replacement surgeries to skin grafts for burn victims. One tissue donor can save the lives or improve the health of over 125 individuals!
- The families of a tissue donor will receive follow-up care and correspondence from Community Tissue Services.
For more information, visit: Community Tissue Services