Clearing out emails yesterday, I came across one labeled “Donor registration.” It could have contained all manner of information — my monthly donations to the Humane Society and SPCA, clothing donations to the V.A., etc. — but, no, it was something nakedly startling.
The email, dated mid-2016, regarded my registration to donate my organs when I die. It rushed back to me, and once a morbid residue burned off, I was again at peace with my decision to be chopped up and disemboweled when the big day comes.
Fact: one organ donor can save up to eight lives. That’s a pretty good payoff. I can live —or die — with that.
I’ve always ticked the donor box on my driver’s license, yet it’s remained an abstract, faraway concept, like: This really doesn’t concern me in the here and now, so why the hell not?
So I signed up for an official donor program called Donate Life America. I have no idea how I chose them. I didn’t interrogate their credentials, and there are many other donor companies. I could be making a terrible mistake. Maybe they’ll drop my eyeballs on the floor, kick them around as they scramble to fetch the errant orbs.
DLA describes itself like this: It’s a 501(c)3 nonprofit “to increase the number of donated organs, eyes and tissue available to save and heal lives through transplantation while developing a culture where donation is embraced as a fundamental human responsibility.”
The group’s website also features the page “The Deceased Donation Process,” featuring tantalizing (terrifying?) links to “Brain Death Testing,” “The Organ Procurement Organization” and “Recovering and Transporting Organs.” (For gooey, grisly FAQs, go here.)
As I’ve said before, when I expire I plan to be torched into fine powder, suitable for an enormous ashtray. Frankly, being harvested for body parts — skin, eyes, heart, liver, kidneys, bones, arteries — makes me momentarily queasy, even a mite scared. But buck up we must. (Still, I am certain I don’t want to be poked and prodded, chopped and chiseled as a cadaver in a medical school. Family, please note.)
My eyes, brown and clear, are strong, though they require reading specs, a big caveat to donor recipients, I imagine. My ticker is in fine fettle, thumping to the mid-tempo pulse of the Bee Gees’ “Stayin’ Alive” when at rest and Metallica’s “Whiplash” when worked up, and there’s minimal plaque or bad cholesterol gumming up the works. Plus, it’s a big heart: it loves to love and has capacious room for dogs.
Although I’m afraid my liver is probably as useful as a burned charcoal briquette, my kidneys, I think, are performing their business fluidly. I have decent, soft skin, and my bone marrow, healthy, hale, is possibly edible. The subject of my intestines will be mercifully avoided.
Using the one-body-can-save-eight-lives calculus, I reckon I could perhaps save five or six lives. Better than zero. Better than one or two. It’s ghoulish, but golden. This is important work, and really, it’s no work at all.