Donating organs, blood, plasma and stem cells

The past week a new donor law has been approved by the parliament in the Netherlands. Yes! I am very happy with it and celebrated it. The old donor law used to say that you are not an organ donor, unless you object and sign up otherwise. Right now it has been changed into: you are an organ donor, unless you object and sign up otherwise. We’re going to save so many lives because of this law! Donating organs is a well-known form of being a donor. But there are more ways to save a life. Today I’ll tell you which donating options there are.

Donating Organs

I had been waiting for this law for a long time. It really touches me that it has finally been realized. The past years I’ve heard so many people say: ‘Oh, sure, I would be okay with being a donor. I’m just too lazy to fill in all the forms’. Yes, you had to make an effort to safe a life. Right now, you have to make effort if you don’t want to. I think that’s the way it should be. However, there is one big thing still. The family of a person who has died still has the final say. I think that’s odd. The person has made known what that person wanted when that person was alive. We should respect someone’s choices. For some families it’s still taboo and so they object. I hope this new law will at least break the taboo as well. We shall see, the law will be implemented in the summer of 2021 so it is still a long time from now until everybody is listed in the organ donor register.

I have made my choice some time ago. I think I was 15 or 16. During that time I had broken my toe and went to the hospital for a check-up. I saw a stand about becoming a donor and I was interested. I asked some information about it and signed up right there and then. Very simple. You can choose which organs you want to give and which one you don’t. I’m giving all there is to give. It’s a personal choice of course but I don’t see why I shouldn’t save a life if I can? My body is useless after I die anyway haha.

Update: The number of people who need organs are shocking. Now that I am updating this post (on 20-12-2020) I found this site to see how many people are waiting for an organ in the Netherlands. This past month (November 2020) 1278 people are waiting for an organ! I find it chocking. The criteria for a donor are strict, organs have to be medically suit for a transplantation when a person has died. That’s logical. But that’s also why we need more donors. I can’t wait for the numbers to drop of people waiting for an organ in the summer of 2021. It is estimated that 150 persons die each year waiting for an organ while the law is not implemented yet (source).

Donating Blood

Besides being an organ donor (which will be the standard soon) there are other ways to donate something of yourself. One of them is blood. As you might know, blood is essential for life. When an accident happens or when people have surgery a lot of blood can be lost. And so people then need new blood from someone of the same blood group. And so that’s where we can come in. To donate blood in the Netherlands you have to be 18, healthy and straight. Yes, unfortunately gay men are discriminated because Sanquin (the organization which takes care of blood donations in the Netherlands) says the risk for diseases transmitted via blood are too high for them. You can give blood when you didn’t have sex for 4 months but well, that’s just unrealistic in most cases. It seems that there are things changing since technology is getting better, but Sanquin is not there yet.

As a woman you can donate blood 3 times a year and straight men can do it 5 times a year. I have to admit, the first time I was really scared. Afterwards it was a piece of cake. If you are scared, I get that. But it’s worth a try. If it doesn’t work out that’s totally okay. But please give it a try, it is needed. Signing up is really easy and when you’re done you’ll receive an invitation and then you’re free to come whenever it suits you in the coming 2 weeks after the invitation. It doesn’t take long. I think I was away for one hour all in all. At the blood bank you fill in a list of questions and you have a little check-up. Your blood pressure and iron level is measured and they see if you’re good to go. And they you can donate! How much you can donate depends on your height and weight. I have donated 4 times now and I love the feeling it gives me. It is so rewarding knowing that you’re helping someone else. The effects afterwards are different for eveybody, I personally feel a little slow and tired. But that’s only for 24 hours. Want to know more? Check out the Sanquin website.

‘In the Netherlands someone receives a blood transfusion every 2 minutes’

Sanquin

Donating Plasma

At the same organization, Sanquin, you (gay men are completely excluded here unfortunately) can also donate plasma. They say the effect of donating plasma is less severe and so you can donate up to 26 times a year! Every two weeks, whereas with blood you can only donate 3 to 5 times each year. Restoring blood levels takes way longer. You don’t have to donate plasma 26 times in one year of course, you can choose yourself how often you go (I go about once a month). Plasma is the fluid inside of the blood, containing egg-whites. Giving plasma takes longer because the blood is taken out (just like when you donate blood), but it’s then separated into plasma and red blood cells. The plasma is kept and the red blood cells are then returned to you through that same needle (and the feeling isn’t any different either). If I go to Sanquin for a donation I schedule about two hours all in all. The procedure is the same as I describes above for the blood donation. The only difference is that you make an appointment beforehand, since the process takes longer. You have priority before the blood donors. Plasma is used to make medicines and for people with severe burns. The last time I donated blood I transitioned to plasma donor. You can only be one, a blood or plasma donor. I can give plasma more frequently and they needed more plasma, so I switched. You can also take a look at the Sanquin website.

Donating Stem Cells

And then the last and least known form of being a donor: stem cell donor. Sometimes when a person gets sick, they need stem cells. When someone suffers from leukemia for example. When this happens doctors look for a stem cell match in the direct family. But there is only a matching donor in the direct family in 30% of all cases. And so that’s why there are stem cells donors needed. For the other 70% who also need stem cells. If you sign up as a stem cell donor you receive a registration set with special cotton swabs. You then have to put those in your mouth for about 5 minutes and send them back. This way they can identify what kind of stem cells you have and then you’re put in the data bank. If someone is in need of stem cells ánd a match with you (the odds are unfortunately very small) you are asked to donate. This can be done by taking blood or under anesthesia. It takes an entire day in the hospital but this is paid for. During your life, you can only donate stem cells once. More information can be found on the Matchis website.

Compassion

I am an organ, plasma and stem cell donor. Update 2020: I hope to extend this list soon with being a hair donor as well. More about that soon. For me being a donor is about being compassionate for others and selflessness. If I am completely healthy, why shouldn’t I help someone else who needs me? It is a form of living eco-positive for me. I can live within the earth’s boundaries, but then it feels like my endscore is 0. I want to contribute something, anything. What about you? Do you donate something?

Yours sincerely,
Romee

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