Two years ago, Carrie Parsley lost her 22-year-old daughter to a fentanyl overdose. But her organ donation upon her death saved the lives of three people: a 39-year-old father and carpenter in need of a kidney, a 13-year-old girl in need of a liver, and a 56-year-old grandfather in need of a pancreas and kidney.
“I’m thankful…for part of my daughter living on and helping other people,” said Parsley, from Louisville. “She was such a caring person. She loved so deeply.”
Stories like this are becoming more and more common, according to USA Today.
According to the executive director of the Kentucky Circuit Court Clerks’ Trust for Life, a nonprofit that advocates for more tissue and organ donation, Shelley Snyder, 25 percent of organ donors in Kentucky die with drugs in their bodies.
Last year, overdoses were responsible for the deaths of 11 percent of donors in Kentucky—over 11 times the percentage in 2000.
As both the opioid crisis and the demand for organ donations continue to grow each year, the Trust for Life, Kentucky Organ Donor Affiliates, and Volunteers of America Mid-States collaborate on a joint project unlike any other in the United States: they hope to promote organ donations in families impacted by addiction.
Organs donated by those who died from overdose are "increased risk organs" because their donors are at higher risk of diseases such as HIV and hepatitis C. But organs are monitored and tested, and there's little risk of contracting a disease from a transplant.
And though some believe that drug cravings are carried over through organs, transplant surgeon Dr. Christopher Jones assured that the idea is a common misconception.
“Addiction is a neuro issue. It’s all in the brain, and we’re not transplanting the brain,” he said.
Donations from victims of overdose “are very safe. They’re just like any other organ you would get, honestly.”