Doctor: Misconceptions discourage potential organ donors

(WPRI) — A candle glows every night in Allison Lindgren’s window, a reminder of the heart beating in her chest. At 30 years old, Lindgren will never forget about the 6-year-old girl she never met, whose organ saved her life.

“She was from the New Orleans area. To know that her heart 18 years later is still going in me, she must have a had a pretty strong heart,” said Lindgren.

Born with congenital heart disease, Lindgren needed a heart transplant at 11 years old. She was put on the list and skyrocketed to the top when her health plummeted, leaving her with just two weeks to live. That little girl from Louisiana was her saving grace, but others aren’t so lucky.

“It is a frustrating process when patients have to wait for a deceased donor,” Dr. Paul Morrissey said.

Morrissey knows that excruciating waiting game all too well. He’s been performing pancreas and kidney transplants at Rhode Island Hospital since doctors there first started performing them 20 years ago.

“At that time, the waiting list was about three years for a transplant,” Morrissey said. “Now it’s up to almost six years. We’ve seen our list grow from 100 patients 20 years ago to 270 patients.”

He says it’s a result of transplants becoming a more successful and viable option. However, the donor list hasn’t grown along with the waiting list, something he blames on donor misconceptions.

Despite increased efforts by the government to debunk these myths, they still exist.

If you’d like to register to be an organ donor, you can do so here » 

Some of the more common ones according to are:

*If they see I’m a donor at the hospital, they won’t try to save my life.*

“It’s amazing that that misconception persists,” says Morrissey, “but organ donors get maximally cared for up until the moment they’re declared dead and even afterward because we need to maintain the organs and make sure they’re in the best shape possible for transplantation.”

*I’m too old to be a donor.*

Morrissey says they take donors up to age 85.

“Many people, even if they’re sick with one medical problem, still have other organs that are healthy and usable for transplant,” he says.

There’s also a common misconception that organ recipients are set for life after their transplant.

Allison Lindgren is a living reminder that that’s not the case. She’s now back on that waiting list, finding out just weeks ago that she’ll need a second heart transplant.

“It’s scary,” she says, “especially because I know how sick I had to be the first time to even get placed on the list.”

She continues to stay positive, hoping someone will check that and be her light at the end of the tunnel.