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Donating for Life - The Options

By Edited Aug 17, 2016 2 7


Donate Life

Life is an unpredictable journey. It puts many in need and some others in the position of giving. Even as we talk about lifesaving, millions each year face the grim prospect of leading their life in uncertainty and extreme hardship following some catastrophic event that takes away their self-reliance in terms of bodily capacity. This is also happening each day to newborns that face birth defects in various ways. Hence, it is an onus upon those privileged to be able to help in a real sense by willingly donating something out of their own healthy selves as long as that does not endanger them in any way. This goes beyond the ordinary sense of giving and the memories of it last a lifetime in those who receive.  

Types of Donation for Life

The purpose of this writing is to show in one spot all the different avenues of donation for life. Many may have looked only at one or the other option of it and may not have had a good overall picture of such donations.  Not all forms of donating for life that are now practised are discussed here. There are some religions that do not allow sperm and egg donation, for instance, due to potential conflicts between just being a donor and having to admit or face biological parenthood under some circumstances. In order to avoid controversy, the forms of donation discussed below are those that seek to save lives or restore serious health conditions. Here are some of the options for a donor :


Most of us are only familiar with blood donation since it is the most common. It would not be too far off to say it is also the easiest part of ourselves to give since in a healthy body lost blood is quickly regenerated. It is a well-known fact that millions of people need blood transfusions each year worldwide. Stocks of donated blood need to be replenished since they have a limited storage life – less than two months. If you meet the prerequisites of age, weight and health condition, in your lifetime you should be able to give blood several times. Visit a nearby hospital or health center for more information.

Donate Blood


It is not in all cases that it’s the blood that’s needed. Instead, it may be components of the blood such as blood plasma or the blood-clotting platelets or thrombocytes. Apheresis is used to separate these components from the blood that you give. Hence, this can be construed specifically as the donation of plasma or platelets. Platelets can often be used for patients with leukemia and cancer. Plasma is mainly water and gives blood most of its volume and fluidity. While platelets can only be stored for a certain number of days, frozen plasma will last several months. This may be a consideration when there are competing reasons for giving in a particular situation.

Bone Marrow

Bone marrow transplantation can help with some life-threatening conditions such as lymphoma, anemia and thalassemia as it reproduces good blood cells to replace diseased ones. Bone marrow which is found in the hollow part of some bones contains stem cells for the production of red and white blood cells as well as platelets. There are some requirements to be fulfilled like having a matching tissue type. If close relatives are able to offer bone marrow, it is usually better but the registries handling this donation will have extensive databases to do the matching properly.


Tissue donation refers to fulfilling the frequent need for replacement of critical parts in the body such as skin, bone, cartilage, tendons, heart valves and so on. For example, severe burn cases need skin grafting. Those with severe degenerative conditions or who have undergone trauma in the musculoskeletal system may require treatments like hip and knee replacement to aid mobility.

Eye and Cornea 

An eye as a whole cannot be transplanted. Typically an eye donation refers to transplantation of the cornea after death which constitutes about 90% of all eye transplants, the remainder of which is the transplantation of the sclera or white of the eye. Eye banks provide common assurance to the relatives of the deceased that he or she shall not have  any visible disfigurement that may affect an open funeral, for instance. This is so that any misconceptions do not hinder the potential donor’s family from going ahead with the donation.


Organs have probably the biggest scope for donation and are the most highly anticipated among recipients. Getting organs to be donated is one thing. Getting the perfect match among potential recipients for the donated organs annually is quite another challenge. There are several organs that can be transplanted such as the heart, kidney and liver but it is usually done only when there is almost complete failure of the original organ. Since organ failure does happen at an alarming rate worldwide, often there is a long waiting list of potential recipients. In fact, many people die every day just waiting for a transplant. There are, however, also many success stories on transplantation. Some patients have lived from their early years of childhood well into their fifties from heart transplants that were well-coordinated and maintained. One thing to note is that a single healthy person can actually impact multiple lives through more than one organ donation though this doesn’t happen very often.   If you have seriously considered this at any point in your life, it may be well to have yourself registered with one of the many bodies nationwide handling donor participation.

Making a Difference as a Donor

In retrospect, there are three essential ways of looking at someone's donor status

  • A person, though deceased, continues to live in the lives of others – and is deeply appreciated for it
  • A person, while still alive and well, is able to contribute to the well-being of others and witness it  
  • A person through his or her selfless act, influences others to do the same while making the world a better place to live in   


Man in Pensive Mood

Whichever way one sees it, though they may never meet each other in real life, the donor-recipient relationship is a steadfast, truthful and exemplary one among many of human ties.



Mar 13, 2014 10:49pm

Wow! what a great comprehensive article. I bet a lot of people did not know about the Apheresis, the only reason I knew about that is because of people that had those problems. Although I did not know there was a specific name for it. Thanks for sharing this. Rated up
Mar 13, 2014 10:50pm
And tweeted, good helpful read
Mar 14, 2014 12:01am
Thanks, shar-On! Really appreciate your feedback and glad it rang a bell for you in terms of your experience. Thanks for the tweet too!
Mar 14, 2014 12:07am
Great article nazrahim. I agree with you, we should all donate blood, if we are healthy. I used to be a blood donor in the UK. I'm O negative and my blood type is sought after, because it's universal donor. Unfortunately here in Australia, I'm not allowed to donate it because I lived in the UK in 1995-96, at the time of the mad cow disease. I don't get it. Benefits > risk, in my opinion. For the same reason I am not allowed to register as a bone marrow donor, I have tried a few months ago :-(
Mar 14, 2014 12:23am
Thanks Larah! That's odd though, since it excludes from donating blood anyone who lived in UK from 1995-96 and came to Australia after that. That could number in the hundreds(if not thousands)- what a waste! You'd think they could run some simple tests even if there was risk, which I doubt though. I do commend your sincerity and effort in trying to get registered.
Mar 14, 2014 3:54am
I've had a corneal implant (made of plastic to a specific prescription) 10 years ago. I did not know people were still using corneas from humans.

nazrahim, you did really good work here. The siuations you noted here by category can not only mean quality-of-life changes for some people, but for many it can mean the difference between life and death. This was a heartfelt piece, and you did a great job. A thumb and whatever else we have here (G+, etc.) for you.
Mar 14, 2014 4:51am
Thanks a great deal, Vic! Not sure I deserve all those accolades but it was just a decent attempt at putting various donor info in one place...thought that would be convenient for some people. By the way, in the US there are thousands of human donor corneal transplants each year and no significant shortage of donors in past decade unlike elsewhere. The usual issue debated is only whether the donor age has effect on the long term success of the transplantation but most medical literature says it's the same coming from a young or old person. The concern is partly because the geriatric population in the US is expected to increase, hence a risk on eye donor banks but I guess it's largely unsubstantiated.
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