EXPLAINING DONATION & TRANSPLANTATION TO CHILDREN
Generosity and sharing life make organ transplants possible. Those are the messages to be emphasized when explaining to children how donation and transplantation work.
Discussing organ donation with younger children may sound intimidating. In fact, many of us are hesitant to talk about serious illnesses and death, particularly with children. However, when explaining donation/transplantation to kids, we recommend highlighting the message of life – and our ability to share it with others after we no longer need our body parts.
Of course, how the topic of organ donation and transplantation is approached will depend on the child’s experience with organ donation, if any. Information should be brief and simple and at a level appropriate for the children’s age, with an opportunity to ask questions.
Below are some questions and answers to help guide younger children in a conversation about organ donation and transplantation.
What is an organ?
Much like a machine, our bodies are made up of lots of working parts. For humans, these working parts are called organs. All of our organs work together in our body, but each organ also has a specific job, such as pumping or cleaning our blood or helping us breathe.
What is an organ transplant?
Sometimes our organs don’t work properly. This can be because of an illness or just the way the person was born. When this happens, doctors will decide if they can replace the organ with a healthy one from someone else.
What are some of the different kinds of organ transplants?
Lungs, heart, kidneys, liver, pancreas and intestine.
What do the organs do?
Lungs – Our two lungs help us to breathe.
Heart – Our heart pumps blood through our bodies.
Kidneys – Our two kidneys help to clean our bodies of waste. They also make urine.
Liver – Our liver helps to break down the food we eat.
Pancreas – Our pancreas helps our bodies to digest food.
Intestine – Our intestine turn food and liquid into fuel for our bodies.
Where do the organs come from?
Organs can come from a living person or someone who has died. A living donor is someone who wants to help by giving all or part of a healthy organ. Sometimes someone who has died can also share their organs. In this case, the person and/or their family generously agrees to donate the organs to help someone else live.
How does the new organ get inside a person?
The person will need to have an operation in the hospital. After the operation, the person might have a new scar from where they took out the sick organ and put in the new one. This will be sore for a while, but it will heal.
What happens after someone receives an organ transplant?
After the transplant, it will take them some time to heal and they may have to stay in the hospital. They will also have to take medicine every day to keep healthy and may get sick more than you do, or visit their doctor often – but in most cases, once they are feeling better, a person can do everything that you can do.
How can I help someone who has had an organ transplant?
Right after a transplant, the person might be more tired than usual but you can do quiet things with them like reading, crafts or playing games. If they are coming back to school after a long absence, they might be nervous or need to catch up on school work. You can help them in class, answer questions, invite them to eat lunch with you and be their friend. Also, because someone with an organ transplant can get sick more easily, it is important to wash your hands often and not visit with them when you are sick.