To the editor:

Did you know the oldest Hoosier to give the gift of life was 103 years old? You are never too old to register to be an organ and tissue donor.

May is Older Americans Month, a time to reflect and celebrate the contributions of Indiana’s older residents and increase awareness about aging and its related issues. Hoosiers ages 50 and older enrich the lives of their family, friends, loved ones and communities. Many have saved lives as organ, tissue and eye donors while many others in this age group have been given a second chance at a healthy life through organ or tissue transplant.

There is a myth out there: Many Indiana residents over age 50 mistakenly think they are too old or not healthy enough to be an organ and tissue donor. That is often not the case. Here are the facts.

More than one-third of all deceased organ donors in the U.S. are over age 50. In 2021, of the 13,863 donors in the country, 5,254 — or nearly 38% — were people 50 and older. When Norma Berkey, of Goshen, died in 2020, she saved lives as a tissue donor and became the oldest Hoosier to ever do so.

There are no restrictions for registering to be an organ and tissue donor, and that includes one’s age and medical history.

The priority of a physician is to save your life. Your donation status does not affect your medical care. A separate team of medical professionals determines your donation status, not the team of physicians and medical staff responsible for your immediate medical care. This separate team determines if you are a viable organ donor and if you can be a donor.

There are more than 106,000 Americans, including nearly 1,100 Indiana residents, who need a lifesaving organ transplant. Organs that can be transplanted include the heart, liver, pancreas, lungs, kidneys and intestine. Every donor can potentially save up to eight lives.

Unfortunately, 16 people die every day while waiting for a transplant. The number of people who need a lifesaving transplant is simply rising faster than the number of willing donors.

Further, thousands of people each day need healing tissue donations. Tissues that can be donated include the corneas, skin, heart valves, bone, blood vessels and connective tissues, such as tendons. By donating tissue, you can save and heal the lives of up to 75 people.

You should not rule yourself out from becoming an organ and tissue donor simply because of your age. You are never too old to choose to help save and heal lives.

Educate yourself and talk to your family and friends while considering your decision. There is an abundance of educational information on the Donate Life Indiana website, including informative videos that explain the organ donation process and share why donation is so critical to saving lives.

When you decide to sign up, you can do so immediately at DonateLifeIndiana.org or you can register to become a donor the next time you are at your local Bureau of Motor Vehicles branch.

Finally, once you choose to be a donor hero, make sure you share your decision with your family so they know your wishes. That is a very important step to ensuring the donation process is a comforting one for your family.

It is my hope you will say “yes” to becoming an organ and tissue donor because the need is great. Not everyone can be a donor, even if they register. But registering is the first step.

Being an organ and tissue donor, no matter your age, can be your legacy. Giving the gift of life is truly the greatest gift you can ever give.

Kellie Tremain

President and CEO

Indiana Donor Network