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Tissue Donation · How to Become A Donor

Donating bone and tissue can help make miracles

When you make the decision to donate the tissue of a loved one, you offer new hope to many others. Cancer patients, burn victims, children and adults with heart defects and people with serious trauma injuries are just a few examples of those who can be helped with donated tissue. The success rate of tissue transplants is high. Unfortunately, the supply of transplant tissue is not.

The Cornea and Cornea Transplants

The cornea is the clear front "window" to the eye through which light passes. It is the main focusing element. The normal cornea is completely transparent living tissue. Should the cornea become cloudy from disease, injury, infection or any other cause, vision will be dramatically reduced.

Fortunately, through the medical miracle of corneal transplantation, sight restoration is possible. A cornea transplant (keratoplasty) is the surgical procedure that replaces a disc-shaped segment of an impaired cornea with a similarly-shaped piece of healthy donor cornea. Cornea transplants are one of the most frequently performed human tissue transplants and have helped patients ranging in age from only a few days old to 103 years.

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Frequently Asked Questions

How can I register to become a donor?

There are three ways to join the donor registry: register online, register at the Department of Motor Vehicles or register at any event that has an organ or tissue donation booth.

A donor registry is a database of people who have decided to become organ and tissue donors. The donor registry listed here is designed specifically for Washington state and Montana residents. Every person can decide to donate their organs and tissue at the time of their death. In June 2003, organ and tissue recovery agencies such as Northwest Tissue Center, Northwest Lions Eye Bank and LifeCenter Northwest implemented laws recently enacted by the Montana and Washington state legislatures. These laws created a central and confidential registry of every Montana and Washington resident who has decided to be an organ and tissue donor.

To learn more about ways to register or for more information, call 1-877-275-5269 or click the following link to view the Donate Life Today web site.

How is a donation arranged?

A hospital staff member will contact a Northwest Tissue Center coordinator, who will make the arrangements for donation.

How is tissue recovered?

In a sterile surgical procedure, the tissues are removed in an operating room setting. The donor is treated with dignity and respect. Following the recovery, the body is carefully reconstructed.

What are the success rates?

  • Transplants of long bones or joints have a long-term success rate of about 80 percent.
  • Procedures using smaller pieces of tissue approach 100 percent.
  • Cornea transplant success rate is over 95%.

Is a regular funeral possible?

Yes. Tissue donation should not alter the funeral plans of the donor's family, including desires for a viewing. As with any death, all funeral arrangements and expenses are handled by the family.

Is there a cost for donation?

No. There are no expenses incurred by the family for a donation. At the same time, federal law prohibits payment to families for donation of tissues and organs.

Is it anonymous?

While the Northwest Tissue Center maintains thorough tracking records between donated tissue and a recipient, the donor's identity is not released to recipients.

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Brandon Nelson

Brandon Nelson's parents decided to donate his heart valves after his tragic death so another child could live.

Share Your Decision

If you want to donate your tissue after your death, share this decision with your family. The Northwest Tissue Center requires the consent of a donor’s next-of-kin before donation can occur. By discussing tissue donation with friends and family you will help them make a decision that will honor your wishes.

For more information on bone and tissue donation and transplantation, contact:

NW Tissue Services
501 SW 39th Street
Renton, WA 98057

Please carry your donor card so your intent to participate in the donor program can be immediately known.