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Six (Plus One!) Generous Low or No-Cost "Un"Holiday Gifts

By December 23, 2011

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Today's news is all about all the last minute, procrastinating gift-buyers who have postponed their shopping for whatever reason....

So it seemed a good time to suggest some gifts that are undeniably valuable, no matter what time of year it might be. They don't require you to brave the crowds, nor do they require you max out your credit cards to purchase them.

Truth is, I hope you won't think of them as holiday gifts only. These gifts are generous throughout the year. Why not give them all?

1. The gift of organ donation: According to Donate Life, there are more than 112,000 patients in dire need of a heart, a lung, a kidney or liver transplant , corneas, skin or any other organ or tissue that can be successfully transplanted. In 2010 there were just short of 29,000 organ transplantations, meaning that only about 30% of the people who need them get them. Most who don't get them die. Learn more about the gift of organ donation which, depending on the organ in question, may be donated while you are still alive, or upon your death. (I am a designated organ donor, including registration in the state where I live.)

2. The gift of whole body donation: As mentioned in my post a few days ago about the fact that autopsies are rarely performed anymore, medical science can learn so much from studying the progression of disease or problems that cause human beings to die when they have bodies to study. Medical students learn from cadavers - bodies that are donated by individuals who know that even when they have died, they can make a long-term difference to mankind. You can make that difference, too. Even if you think you can't donate your organs or tissues because of disease (which, by the way, may not be true), donating your body can make a big difference. Learn more about the gift of whole body donation.

3. The gift of bone marrow to a stranger: People diagnosed with leukemia or many genetic disorders, improve their chances for long-term survival with bone marrow or peripheral blood stem cell transplants. These are gifts we give while we are living to people who need them to live. By signing up with the Be a Match registry, you wait to be contacted when/if someone with certain diseases needs some of your marrow or blood. Learn more from the Be a Match website. (I am a registered donor.)

4. The gift of discussion about end-of-life: As we grow older, it's so important to discuss our end-of-life wishes with our loved ones. Yet so many of them resist the conversation - either they are afraid that the discussion will bring about their end too soon, or that it will somehow make death "real." Well, death IS real. It's the last stage of life and it happens to everyone.

Losing a loved one is so very difficult. But the decision-making that has to take place, from how that death occurs (do we keep Grandma on life support?) to funeral arrangements (Grandpa always loved polka music!) to donating organs or one's body (see above) - it's all vitally important! You can start an end-of-life conversation with these suggestions. And you can help them with the paperwork, called advance directives, that legally declare their wishes. The gift will last for your loved one's lifetime. (I have had this conversation with all my loved ones, about their wishes, and about mine.)

5. The gift of assistance: For newly diagnosed, tired and scared loved ones, the gift of help will be one they'll always be grateful for. You can help them by accompanying them to appointments, organizing their bills, researching online, or walking them through the pros and cons of the many decisions that must be made. OR - if you don't feel up to the task yourself, you can find a professional patient advocate to help out. The stress relief of having assistance can go a long way toward healing, or supporting treatment. (I have assisted both my parents and my husband as their advocate, from discussions with doctors, to hospital bedside, to online research, and I have consulted a professional advocate for Dad, too.)

6. Money or goods - gifts to charities: We think of charity donations during the holidays and at the end of the year (for tax purposes) but donations can be made throughout the year, not just during winter holidays. Choosing the right charity, then giving what you can, whether it's $10 or thousands, will help whatever cause you've chosen to support, and will have a positive impact on someone's life. (My husband and I make many charitable donations throughout the year.)

And one more suggestion, a gift for yourself, perhaps: (making it a bakers half-dozen):

As an empowered patient with interest in facilitating our ability as patients to communicate better with providers, payers and other stakeholders in the healthcare system, consider the gift of a membership in the Society for Participatory Medicine. The benefits are individual, and systemic. The education is vast and holistic. The opportunity to rub elbows and learn from all participants are plenty. Learn more about the Society for Participatory Medicine.

My wishes for you this holiday season are that you find comfort, safety and happiness, no matter what holidays you celebrate. And I wish you a healthy - and an empowered - 2012, too!

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December 28, 2011 at 3:44 pm
(1) Valere says:

This is a very informative article but it doesn’t give suggestions on where to get more information on whole body donation to support medical education and research. So I offer the recommendation to call MedCure and ask for a brochure: 1-866-560-2525; or visit their website at http://www.medcure.org. They are a national program.

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