National Donor Day happens during the month of February and is a great time to encourage people in your life to give.
February is a month to celebrate love. It is also a great time to review vital information for RNs and social workers about donations in the form of eye, organs, tissues, hair, and blood.
National Donor Day always occurs during the month of February, and for RNs and clinical social workers in oncology, information regarding donations can be part of our wheelhouse.1 For RNs and clinical social workers some of this review about donation might be new information. Recent graduates may have been exposed to these concepts already.
Surprisingly, I recently found out that National Donor Day began in 1998 by a car manufacturer, the Saturn Corporation, along with the United Auto Workers. Their efforts were backed by the US Department of Health and Human Services (HHS.gov).1 The goal of National Donor Day is to educate and make the public aware about how they can donate organs, eyes and tissue.1 The message they advocate is to “donate life.” Ordinary people can get involved with National Donor Day on a local level. Social media is 1 simple way to get involved.
In addition, recognition is also given to those who have been donors. Honoring those who are waiting for a transplant now and unfortunately, patients who have died waiting for help are also a big part of these celebrations of life.
You can become organ donor when a driver’s license is renewed. Another option is to log onto the National Donate Life Registry at registerme.org.1 Additionally, donations can be made to the Donate Life America (DLA.net).1 RNs and social workers can download and print National Donor Day graphics, and flyers. These can be printed in English and Spanish. Clinicians can promote this cause through providing a link on their social media pages, such as Facebook and Instagram.
Hair Donation Information
Besides organ, eye, and tissue donations, there is something else to donate that may be easier for some—donating human hair for patients with cancer. The most well-known organization that accepts human hair donations is Locks of Love. This is for children who have lost hair because of medical procedures. Locks of Love was originally connect with a for-profit wig retailer, but when it was taken over by a cardiac nurse in 1997, Madonna Coffman, it was turned into a 501(c)(3).2 It did not start as a cancer-related hair donation organization. However, the organization has since provided hair donations to thousands of children with cancer and other maladies. The wigs from Locks of Love are provided for free to patients. People interested in donating should know that the hair that is donated must be 10 inches.
Working in oncology it is almost a given that, on any given shift, one of my patients will need a blood transfusion of packed red blood cells or platelets. Unfortunately, 33% percent of Americans will get a cancer diagnosis in their lifetime.3 Blood components such as packed red blood cells, platelets and plasma cannot be created in a laboratory. They have to be donated. In fact, patients with cancer use 25% of the available blood supply in this country.3 Despite this need, only 3% of the population donates blood.
There are many different reasons that patients with cancer may require a transfusion. Many times, patients with cancer receive intravenous or oral chemotherapy during active treatment.4 Chemotherapy may disrupt the bone marrow cells and therefore cause a drop in the hemoglobin and hematocrit counts. Anemia is common if a patient develops internal bleeding. Patients with leukemia who have disruptions in their bone marrow production may also require blood transfusions. Patients who receive radiation when cancer has metastasized to their bones may also experience anemia and benefit from a blood transfusion.4
As oncology nurses and social workers, we do so much for our patients every day. However, by reminding those in our lives about how easy and important it is to become a donor, we can make an even stronger impact on the lives of our patients.