Becoming an organ donor can save another's life.

From the depths of an unimaginable tragedy comes a gesture that will save lives.

When a fire swept through a home at 211 Austin and claimed the lives of five members of one family, mom Charee (Eggleston) Wheatley and children Reece Lowery-5, Timothy Wheatley-2, River Wheatley-1 and Harley Wheatley-3 months, a decision was made to donate organs so others might live.

Organ donation has saved countless lives or improved lives. For example on improved lives, a person may donate a kidney and continue through life with just one kidney.

Signing up to be an organ donor is a simple process. It can be done on-line or when renewing or getting a new driver's license.

Driver's license examiner Stephanie Ralston said signing up when getting a driver's license is very simple and can be done at the Pratt County Courthouse in her office. When making application for a new or renewing a license, she asks the person if they want to be an organ donor. If they say "yes" they go on the Kansas donor list. Then she asks if they want to be on the National Donor list. If they say "yes" then they are on both lists. Ralston said everyone that indicates they want to be an organ donor also says they want to be on the national list, Ralston said.

When the driver receives their new license, the words "Organ Donor" and a heart symbol will be on the license. For more information on organ donation, visit YesTheyWantMe.com.

Once a person has signed up to be an organ donor, they should notify family members of their decision.

When the time comes to recover organs from a donor, the first part of the process takes place at a hospital. If the person has already signed up to be an organ donor, that's all that needs to be done to start the process. If the person was not signed up to donate organs or the person is under the age of 18, the final decision for organ donation is made by the legal next of kin, parents or guardian.

If the family wants to donate organs, they will inform the hospital, for example Pratt Regional Medical Center, that will in turn contact the Midwest Transplant Network, an organ procurement organization, and Midwest will talk with the family about making the donation, said Jack Kennedy, chief nursing officer at PRMC.

The hospital doesn't select who donates or who is eligible, that is all done by Midwest, Kennedy said.

Midwest checks with the organ donor registry to verify if a person is signed up. If they are and the decision is made to recover organs, Midwest sends procurement coordinators to the hospital to visit with the family and tell them about the process and who it could potentially help.

Once the final decision is made, Midwest works with the hospital to help optimize the patients condition to get the organs to the best quality possible, said said Brooke Connell, manager of public affairs for Midwest Transplant Network that covers Kansas and two thirds of Missouri. There are several transplant regions in the United States and each region has an organ procurement organization, Connell said.

Midwest then checks the organ donation network to find a match for the organs. They contact transplant centers to receive the organs.

When it's time for the recovery process, Midwest will sends it's own team of doctors and technicians to do the recovery. If the hospital doesn't have the necessary facilities for the recovery, the patient is moved to another hospital that can support the recovery, Connell said.

Midwest makes all the arrangements for donation including transporting organs to the transplant hospital. This is all done at no charge to the family that does the donation, Kennedy said.

Midwest also provides a number of programs to care for the family of the donor.

Organ donation is a very emotional event. The entire process is done as respectfully and a sensitively as possible, Kennedy said.

"When a loved one dies, it's very traumatic," Kennedy said. "They (Midwest) are very respectful."

The recipient of the organ is not released to the donor's family but they are given general information like an adult male in the midwest but nothing specific like name, city or state.

If the donor family or the recipient family wants to know who received he organ or who donated the organ, that family can contact the transplant center through Midwest and they will notified the other party. It is up to the other party to decide if they want to make the connection. If they decide they want to connect, both have to sign a contract and release before they can meet, Connell said.

Statistics from Midwest Transplant Network and organdonor.gov

• All adults in the U.S. can be organ donors. In some states, under 18 is allowed. Authorization by parent or guardian is generally necessary for those under 18 who have died to be a donor.

• Transplant team will determine if the person can be a donor.

• A donor should tell the family they want to donate.

• One donor can save eight lives.

• Heart, kidneys (2), pancreas, lungs (2), liver and intestines can be donated. Hands and faces have recently been added to the list.

• Cornea, skin, heart valves, bone, blood vessels and connective tissue can be donated.

• Bone marrow, stem cells, umbilical cord blood, peripheral blood stem cells can be donated.

• More than 118,000 in the U.S. are waiting for an organ transplant.

• 33,611 transplants were performed in 2016.

• 80 people a day get transplants.

• Organ donation will not disfigure the body and will not interfere with an open casket funeral.

• More than 2,000 Kansans and Missourians are on the waiting list with 1,800 of those waiting for kidneys.

• On average, 150 people are added to the nation's organ transplant waiting list every day or about one very 10 minutes.

• On average, 22 people die each day waiting for a donor.

• A living donor can save a life by donating a kidney or a portion of their liver, lung, pancreas or intestine.

• More than one-third of deceased donors are 50 or older and nearly eight percent are 65 or older.

• Approximately 50 percent of the U.S. adult population (about 121 million) are registered organ, eye and tissue donors. In Kansas, 71 percent of adults and 74 percent in Missouri have said yes to donation and are on the registry.

@GaleR_Tribune