Wednesday, August 22, 2012

The ultimate in recycling: the human body.

I have a T-shirt from GreenGo Recycling featuring a stick person with a recycle loop for a head, measuring the valuable metals and elements in the typical human body. Meant as a joke, it reminds me that our bodies really can be recycled to save lives.
Many otherwise healthy people need a new organ to replace a failing one. Organ transplantation is a well-established system, but sadly there are always shortages. You won’t need your organs after death, so please, indicate your donor status on your ID, and make sure your family is aware of your wishes, lest they object if the time comes.
Early this year I wrote of my cousin Sam, tragically killed at 20 in a cycling accident. I mentioned the poor girl whose cleft palate was fixed after Sam noticed it, and the school built in his memory. But I didn’t mention that when he died, his liver, kidneys, pancreas, and corneas were passed on to those in need, and he now lives on in 4 other people. Death is tragic, but if it can save the lives of others, surely that adds some meaning.
Luckily there is much we can do while still alive to recycle our bodies. There was a time when my hair reached my waist, but in the 2004 election, it had to come off. Rather than let it go to waste, I donated it to the Hair Prosthesis Centre. If you feel like cutting back long hair, or are willing to grow for a good cause, please consider donating it. Growing hair just means barber costs to you can mean the world to someone who’s lost their own due to surgery, treatment, or illness.
For years I’ve donated blood, another way you can give now. No more painful than a vaccination, many lives can be helped with each unit of whole blood or platelets. It’s even said that giving blood helps men regulate their iron levels. Canadian Blood Services also administers the One Match program for stem cells and bone marrow. Right now they have a special need for ethnic males aged 17 to 35, but any healthy person 17 to 50 is a potential donor. All it takes is a cheek swab; you’ll only be contacted if an exact match ever comes up.
Even whole bodies can be recycled, in the form of zombies. Burl’s Creek will host its first Run for Your Lives zombie obstacle race on September 22, and there is still room to register for this unique event in support of the American Red Cross. And October 20th will be Barrie’s annual Zombie Walk in support of the Elizabeth Fry Grocery Assistance Program.
Your body: yours to recycle!
Published as my Root Issues column in the Barrie Examiner under the title "Donate your organs and help others live life"
Erich Jacoby-Hawkins is a director of the Ontario School of Economic Science and Earthsharing Canada. 

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