We’re all familiar with organ donation, or even with donating an entire body to medical science - but recycling medical devices? From eyeglasses to insulin pumps, medical "hardware" can sometimes be used to enhance - or even save - the life of a second recipient.
A number of organizations collect used prescription eyeglasses and distribute them to those who cannot afford corrective glasses. The current major service project of Lions Clubs International, a community service organization, is the SightFirst program. Many Clubs collect used eyeglasses that can be distributed to people in need. Collection sites are often located in shopping centers, public libraries, and optical shops. Contact your local Lions Club for more information.
New Eyes for the Needy, Inc. is a nonprofit, nonsectarian volunteer organization whose mission is to help provide better vision to poor people around the world. For more information on how to make your tax-deductible donation, write New Eyes for the Needy, 549 Millburn Avenue, Short Hills, NJ, or call (201) 376-4903.
Another option for donating spectacles you no longer use is Operation Eyesight Universal, which distributes glasses in other countries. Donations may be mailed to 4 Parkdale Crescent NW, Calgary, Alberta T2N 3T8, Canada.
The Hear Now program provides donated hearing aids to individuals who cannot afford to buy a hearing aid. Hear Now affiliates across the country prescribe and fit hearing aids for free. Can call 1-800-648-HEAR for more information, or check the Web at www.leisurelan.com/hearnow. Donated hearing aids may be sent (in a padded envelope) to Hear Now, 9745 E. Hamden Avenue, Suite 300, Denver, CO 80231. To receive a donation receipt for tax purposes, include your return address.
Bill Daem is the founder of Heart Too Heart, a pacemaker recovery organization he started in 1994 with his wife, Evelyn. A death in the family prompted the Daems to question whether pacemakers could somehow be salvaged and reused. An expensive piece of equipment, a pacemaker can cost from $3,000 to $9,000.
Heart Too Heart is a labor of love, with most of the administrative costs donated by the Daems. To date, the organization has received more than 1,300 pacemakers in varying states of wear. Every pacemaker is tested; only those that function at a minimum of 80% operating efficiency are eligible for reuse. The remaining devices are shipped back to the manufacturers for disposal.
True to its altruistic origins, Heart Too Heart does not resell pacemakers. Instead, the used devices are provided only to physicians who agree to donate surgery and medical care to the pacemaker recipient. Although U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) regulations prohibit the reuse of pacemakers and defibrillators, American medical doctors may hand-deliver a medical device to a physician in another country. For more information, write Heart Too Heart at 220 34th Street W, Billings MT 59102.
While insulin pumps can greatly simplify life for people with diabetes, they are expensive -- and not everyone who could benefit can afford one. Your doctor or local diabetes specialist may be able to pass your pump along to someone in your community who could use it.
Make Your Wishes Known - As with organ donation, it’s critical to let others know that you have medical devices you wish to have recycled after your death. Discuss device donation with your family, and consider carrying notification. The Funeral and Memorial Societies of America (FAMSA) offers a red wallet card that provides information many of the organizations above. You can receive a card by sending a self-addressed stamped envelope to FAMSA, P.O. Box 10, Hinesburg, VT 05461. Donations are appreciated.
Many U.S. organizations accept and refurbish durable medical equipment, such as wheelchairs, walkers, crutches, canes, blood pressure equipment, hospital beds, and oxygen equipment. Check with your local social services organizations to find out what can be recycled in your community
This article is adapted with permission from the April 1998 newsletter of The Funeral and Memorial Societies of America. Sue Trinidad, an Oregon-based writer, also contributed
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