In addition to the gift of solid organ transplants (heart, lung, liver, kidneys, pancreas, small intestine), donors can donate their tissue (skin, bone, tendons, veins) and eyes/corneas to help others. Living donors can also donate one of their kidneys or a portion of their livers to matching recipients. These are known as "living donor transplants." This section discusses the lesser known options of eye/cornea, tissue, and living donor organ donation.
Almost everyone can give the beautiful gift of sight through eye/cornea donation. If the cornea, the clear dime-sized tissue that covers the front of the eye, becomes cloudy as a result of injury or disease, blindness can occur. Through cornea transplantation, the damaged cornea is replaced with a clear donor cornea and eyesight can be restored.
Eye donations are also used in surgeries to reconstruct the orbit when a prosthetic eye is the only option and for medical studies to discover treatments and cures for blinding eye diseases. Recipients of donor eye tissue range in age from newborns through adulthood. Unlike solid organ donation, a history of cancer does not automatically rule out eye donation. Donor tissue that cannot be used for transplant can, with consent, be used for medical education and research purposes. The only substitute for a human cornea is another human cornea donated at death by someone who thus leaves a living legacy. Eye donation should not prevent having an open casket service.
Every year over 900,000 lives are helped through tissue and eye donation. Donated heart valves can replace damaged ones, allowing the heart to function well again.
Special grafts help patients with spinal deformities live normal lives. Musculoskeletal tissue replaces bone, tendons and ligaments lost to cancer, severe trauma, degenerative joint disease, arthritis and other conditions. Skin can save the lives of burn victims.
Without the choice of people like you and the determination of donor families, allograft surgery would not be possible. A single donor can help up to 50 people – often many more – improve their lives. With that in mind, please designate your positive donation decision.
Unfortunately, there are currently not enough organs donated by deceased donors to meet all of the needs of patients awaiting an organ transplant.
Therefore, over the last few years, transplant surgeons and other members of transplant teams throughout the country have developed new techniques and procedures to save more patients' lives through living donor transplants. It is now possible for a living person to donate a kidney, a portion of the liver, a portion of a lung and, in some rare instances, a portion of the pancreas.
More information on living donor transplants can be found on the web site of the New York Organ Donor Network