The actress and producer shares how her family’s personal tragedy shaped her stance on organ donation, and why planning for tough decisions now is crucial.
Katherine Heigl is passionate about organ donation, an issue that’s deeply impacted her family.
“My brother Jason was a donor,” she explains. “A tragic accident left my brother with a massive brain injury, but he was fine from the neck down. Through this difficult and tragic experience, our whole family learned that, as human beings, we need to have as much compassion for others as we have for ourselves.
“Once the person you love is no longer able to continue their life,” Heigl adds, “It is both good, honorable and the right thing to do when you gift someone else, who is dying, with a second chance.”
The family made the decision to donate Jason’s heart, kidneys and eyes. According to Heigl, the donations helped five other individuals continue life as they knew it, and were “Jason’s last gift to a world he had the greatest affection for.”
Be a donor
Heigl urges everyone to follow her brother’s example, and consent to being a donor.
“All anyone needs to do to be convinced that this is right is talk to a family whose loved one is waiting for an organ to survive,” she says.
Today, 120 million Americans are registered as donors, but even more are needed, regardless of age, race or ethnicity. Although 79 organ donations happen daily, other statistics are sobering. Every day 18 people die waiting to get transplants, and every 10 minutes a new name is added to the national organ transplant waiting list.
Supporting the cause
Registered donors should share their intent to donate with their family and friends to help foster awareness.
One organ and tissue donation can save up to eight lives.
“It’s so hard for people to be thinking about organ donation for the first time when they are amidst an overwhelming tragedy,” says Heigl. “It’s something that no one ever wants to be faced with, and if you make sure that all who care about you know your own wishes, you can spare them one more decision during an already very difficult time.”