Health Watch: Fairbanks Memorial Hospital spreads awareness on importance of organ donations

Published: Feb. 16, 2022 at 4:42 PM AKST
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FAIRBANKS, Alaska (KTVF) - National Organ Donor Day occurred this week, and Fairbanks Memorial Hospital has joined in helping spread awareness of the importance of organ donations.

According to Sarah Martin, Chief Nursing Officer at Fairbanks Memorial Hospital, organ donations are an integral part of the health care system.

“I would say hundreds of thousands of lives are actually saved annually through the act of organ and tissue donation,” Martin explained, “whether it is through live tissue donation or organs that are supplied after someone has passed away. It’s incredibly important for what we do and how to save lives in our organization.”

Martin continued, “The State of Alaska does not actually have a center that does organ transplants; but even though that is the case, we still have hundreds of Alaska state residents if not thousands that are on waiting lists for organs currently throughout the country and actually across the globe. We have hundreds of thousands of patients that are waiting for organs at any given time - [and] because you could be waiting for a variety of things, it really does end up being a pretty lengthy list. There are people who actually do pass away while waiting for organs.”

According to Marisa Sharrah, Development Program Manager at Greater Fairbanks Community Hospital Foundation, becoming a donor is relatively simple in Alaska. Residents can register on their MyAlaska online account, and even sign up on their next trip to the DMV.

“Alaska makes registering to be an organ donor incredibly easy,” Sharrah elaborated. “You can do that at the time when you first get your driver’s license. Or, when you go through that renewal process, if you’re not already a registered organ donor, there’s a quick kind of a check box that you can mark in order to become an organ donor.”

But regardless, whether one decides to donate or not, it is recommended to have a plan in place so family members are prepared.

“From my perspective, I think the most important thing I would love to relay to people is just to make their wishes known to their family one way or another,” Martin remarked. “I think the most important action that anyone can do from a community perspective is reaching out, educating themselves, and then making sure that their families know what they would want in the event that a situation would occur that they could potentially donate their organs.”

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