April is National Donate Life Organ & Tissue Donor Awareness Month

April is National Donate Life Organ & Tissue Donor Awareness Month

By Kay Coles James, Director U.S. Office of Personnel Management

The gift of life is the greatest gift one can ever give. And you may have the power to give that priceless gift to a relative, a friend, or someone you do not even know and may never meet.

The need for organ and tissue donations is tremendous. According to the Department of Health and Human Services, roughly 63 Americans receive an organ transplant every day. More than 77,000 people in desperate need of life-saving assistance are on the national transplant waiting list. Tragically, each day about 16 people will die because the organs they need are not available in time.

Organ donation can literally restore sight to the blind. It can offer a second chance when a weak heart begins to fail. Your bone marrow might be the miracle match for a child stricken with leukemia.

For me, organ donation is a personal mission. One of my closest advisors and dearest friends is alive and enjoying a rich, full life today thanks to a donated kidney. That donor and their family have my deepest gratitude; it makes me passionate about encouraging others to follow in those unselfish footsteps.

At the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, our goal is to make the federal government a model employer in every way. The OPM team has launched HealthierFeds campaign to educate federal employees and retirees on healthy living and best treatment strategies. Our focus this month is organ donation.

I am quite proud of the way the federal government helps its workers become part of the chain of life. Our compassionate leave policies make special accommodation for organ and bone marrow donation.

The government’s health program, the Federal Employees Health Benefits program, lets employees choose from among a dozen or more insurance options. While specific benefits may vary among plans, the FEHB covers no experimental transplants such as cornea, heart, kidney, pancreas, lung, liver, and small intestine transplants. Coverage includes related medical and hospital expenses of the donor, even if the donor is not an FEHB member. You may want to check out your own health insurance to find out how it treats transplants.

The president has declared April 2003 “National Donate Life Month.” During this spring season of renewal, I would urge every American to consider signing up as an organ donor.

Please visit the Department of Health and Human Services organ donation Web site at www.organdonor.gov. You can find information and even download an organ/tissue donor card and sign up to become a donor. Remember, giving and sustaining life are the best gifts of all.

Kay Coles James is the director of the U.S. Office of Personnel Management (OPM), which oversees the federal workforce and manages the Federal Employees Health Benefits (FEHB) program that provides coverage to 8 million federal employees, retirees and their dependents.

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