Promise your heart (and some other organs)

It’s 14 February – that special day where we celebrate the unique bond that certain people share. That’s right, today is Organ Donor Day! Surely there can be no more special bond between two people than sharing an organ?

Yes of course, it’s Valentine’s Day as well, the day when millions of people around the world passionately promise their hearts to each other. But how about a kidney? Or some bone marrow? Even just donating your blood can already change, and save, the lives of many around you.

While you promise your heart to your valentine, make some extra effort and sign up to offer your other organs too.(© All Rights Reserved)
While you promise your heart to your valentine, make some extra effort and sign up to offer your other organs too.
(© All Rights Reserved)

Globally there are hundreds of thousands of people waiting on potentially life-saving organs from organ donors. Yet the number of organ donors in many countries remain extremely low. This is partly affected by the organ donor policy adopted in a country. Countries can either adopt an opt-in or an opt-out policy – in an opt-in system you have to explicitly give consent to become a donor, while in an opt-out system consent is assumed unless you explicitly refuse. The opt-in system obviously results in much less organ donors, and the number becomes even lower in legislative systems where the family of the deceased also have to consent  – in 2011, for example, Australia had about 15 donors/million, Germany had 16 donors/million and New Zealand didn’t even make it into double figures, with less than 9 donors/million. Spain, who has an opt-out system, had 34 donors/million.

The above figures specifically relate to deceased donors – interestingly there tends to be many more donations from living donors. This is partially because the consent process is less complex when you’re alive, but also because people are more likely to be moved to perform the selfless act of donating an organ or some body tissue if they know it is going to be used to save a loved one, rather than going the more passive/generic route of offering their body parts to whoever might need it, once you’re dead.

Often, especially in an opt-in system, the low donor numbers are not because people are fundamentally opposed to organ donation, it is simply because they are not aware that they need to actually, while they’re alive, consent to becoming a donor. Or it’s one of those things you just don’t get around to. As such, there really is a huge need for more urgent communication and information sharing on this topic – people need to understand how the system in their country works, and importantly they need to be made aware of the massive positive impact they can make after their death by simply taking the time and making the effort to fill in a donor consent form. Or, if you’re in a system where your family has the final say, like in Australia and New Zealand, talking to your loved ones and making sure that they know you wish to be a donor.

So next time 14 February rolls around, and love is in the air, why not give the ultimate gift of love and opt-in to become an organ donor. Besides potentially becoming a life-saver to your own loved ones, you can touch the lives of many people you’ve never even met – it is estimated that a single person becoming an organ and tissue donor can affect, and potentially save, the lives of no less than 50 people.

Think about it – you can fundamentally touch the lives of 50 people in the time it takes to shop for a valentine’s card. That’s huge…

Everything is coming up roses

Today, 7 February, is Rose Day, apparently conceived to mark the start of Valentine week*.

Valentine week!? As if Valentine’s Day isn’t already more than enough! It seems some clever marketer has decided there’s yet more money to be squeezed out of the poor consumer, who is scarcely back on his feet after the Christmas marketing onslaught.

'First Love' hybrid tea rose. (© All Rights Reserved)
The ‘First Love’ hybrid tea rose from New Zealand – a rose of classic beauty.
(© All Rights Reserved)

While Rose Day may have seen the light as part of an extended Valentine’s sales pitch, that does not mean we shouldn’t use the occasion to celebrate roses for what they are – really interesting, and rather lovely, flowers.

Roses are nothing if not diverse. In total there’s more than 100 species of roses, including bush roses, climbers, erect schrubs and miniature roses. While most are used as ornamental plants or as a favourite among cut flowers, roses are also used in the making of perfume, as well as in cooking and medicine. Rose hip (the berry-like ‘fruit’ at the base of the flowers of certain rose species), which is a rich source of Vitamin C, can be made into jams and jellies, while rose syrup can be made from an extract of rose flowers. Rose water (obtained as a by-product from distilling rose petals) is used in cooking and natural medicines. The Rosa chinensis species is used in traditional Chinese medicine for stomach problems and, linking back to World Cancer Day, this species is also being investigated as a substance for the control of cancer growth.

Not bad for a flower often taken for little more than a rather cheesy ‘symbol of love’.

The 'Chinensis Mutabilis' Chinese heirloom rose (© All Rights Reserved)
The ‘Chinensis Mutabilis’ Chinese heirloom rose – a picture of elegance and simplicity.
(© All Rights Reserved)

On a rather unrelated note, I’ve discovered that ROSE also happens to be an acronym for the Relevance of Science Education project. According to the site, “ROSE, The Relevance of Science Education, is an international comparative project meant to shed light on affective factors of importance to the learning of science and technology. Key international research institutions and individuals work jointly on the development of theoretical perspectives, research instruments, data collection and analysis.”

Now surely science education is something worthy of celebration, so there’s another angle to ROSE Day allowing you to celebrate the day while steering clear of the Valentine’s Day connection.

So, whether you’re a lover, a cook, a poet, an artist or a scientist, surely there’s more than enough reason to join me in celebrating Rose Day.

* If you really need to know, Valentine Week’ consists of the following days:

  • 7th Rose Day
  • 8th Propose Day
  • 9th Chocolate Day
  • 10th Teddy Day
  • 11th Promise Day
  • 12th Kiss Day
  • 13th Hug Day
  • 14th Valentine’s Day