Although seven-year-old Collin Sanders passed away in 2002, he lives on through the survival of others. Collin, his two brothers, and two of their friends were in a minivan driven by Tracy Sanders, Collin’s mother. Tracy stopped to make a turn. A pickup truck behind them also stopped. And then the unthinkable happened. A commercial truck behind those two vehicles did not stop in time. It crashed into the pickup truck, which then slammed into the Sanders’ minivan. While Tracy and four of the boys only sustained minor injuries in the crash, Collin suffered a traumatic brain injury that left him comatose, and it soon became apparent he would not survive. Collin’s parents had many difficult decisions to make, but they say the easiest decision was to donate his organs.
Every year, thousands of people wait for organs and tissue. They need new organs to replace their own, which have been damaged either through disease or traumatic injury. But every day, 19 people die because they do not receive the organs they need in time. But the lucky ones who do receive donated tissue and organs can go on to live many more years than they would have otherwise. People who receive a donated kidney can give up dialysis. Those who receive hearts and livers can be active again, no longer confined to their beds. And visually impaired people can see again through donated corneas. Those are just a few examples of what organ and tissue donation can do.
Collin’s parents knew that organ donation was the right decision when they lost their son. Both organ donors themselves, they believe strongly in the cause. Although Collin died from a traumatic brain injury, his heart was also bruised in the accident, and could not be donated. But he was able to give life to two adults who received his kidneys, and a 20-month-old baby who received his liver. Those people are alive today because of Collin, and because of them, Collin also lives on.
It’s difficult for any parent to even consider donating their child’s organs. But it just so happened Tracy and Collin had talked about it one day when Collin was four. She was having a discussion about a donor patch with her other son who was a Cub Scout, when Collin piped up and said he’d be an organ donor.
Even when the potential organ donor is an adult, it can be difficult for their family to decide the right course. Sometimes people hold out hope for recovery, and the small window of opportunity during which organs can be donated closes.
This is why it’s extremely important for anyone who wishes to be an organ donor to not only register with an organ donation organization, but to discuss the decision with their family. Many states allow organ donors to indicate their choice on their driver’s license, making it easier for medical personnel to know their wishes so proper preparations can be made. Colorado allows residents to leave instructions on organ donation in a living will. But not discussing it with family first can cause strife and heartache when a family feels pressured to comply with their loved one’s wishes.
If you want to be an organ and tissue donor, and possibly save not just one but many lives someday, make sure your wishes are known. Talk with your family, address their concerns, and help them understand your choice. Then, if a tragedy ever occurs and your organs are needed, it will be one less thing for your family to deal with, and they can feel proud of you for saving someone’s life.