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The Voice of the Black Community


Everyone can donate life
An average of 18 people die each day waiting for an organ transplant
Published Thursday, April 25, 2013
by Wake Forrest School of Medicine

Did you know that an average of 18 people die every day waiting for an organ transplant? And that every 10 minutes another person is added to the waiting list? Currently, there are more than 110,000 people in the United States waiting for an organ transplant, and of those nearly one-third are African American. One organ donor can save up to 8 lives!! Approximately half of the waiting list is made of up of persons of non-white ethnic backgrounds. April is National Donate Life Month, read on to learn more about how you can save a life.

Unfortunately, African Americans are much less likely to be organ and tissue donors, even though they have higher rates of those diseases that often result in a need for organ transplant, such as diabetes, and diseases of the heart, kidneys, lung and liver. Many people choose not to become donors because they do not know all the facts about organ and tissue donation. Let’s talk about what the facts are.

Facts about donation

* Almost everyone is a potential donor, regardless of race, age, or medical history – what is most important is the condition of your organs and tissues

* It is not always necessary for a person to be deceased to be an organ/tissue donor

* There is no cost to a donor/donor’s family to be an organ/tissue donor

* Most major religions in the United States support organ/tissue donation. For religion/ denomination specific information, check organdonor.gov/donation/religious_views.htm#a10

* It is more likely for a recipient to be matched with a potential donor who is of the same ethnic background

What can be donated?

At this time, the following organs can be donated: kidneys, heart, lungs, liver, pancreas and intestines. Sometimes, combined transplants of more than one organ are also performed. Tissues that can be donated include: Corneas, the middle ear, skin, heart valves, bone, veins, cartilage, tendons, and ligaments. Although most organs are from deceased individuals, parts of the kidney, liver, lung and pancreas and intestine can also be donated.  Stem cells, bone marrow, blood and platelets can also be donated from living donors.

How do I become a donor?

The decision to become an organ and tissue donor is a very personal one, but one that can save lives. The steps you can take to ensure your wishes to be a donor are carried out are:

* Register with your state donor registry. In North Carolina you can go the registry website, https://www.donatelifenc.org/register or register at your local Department of Motor Vehicles office. You DO NOT have to have a driver’s license to be a donor; you can have an identification card issued to you that specifies you are an organ/tissue donor.

* For bone marrow and stem cell donation (live donors), register with the National Marrow Donor Program, https://www.donatelifenc.org/register or 1 (800) 507-5427.

* For blood and platelet donation, contact your local American Red Cross.

* Make sure your loved ones or whomever you have entrusted to make healthcare decisions in the event you are incapable or deceased are aware of your wishes to be an organ donor. The best way to do this is with a Living Will and Health Care Power of Attorney, legal documents that state your health care wishes. Having these documents also assures your loved ones do not have to make these decisions for you in such a difficult time.

For more information, see the Donate Life America website at www.donatelife.net or the US Government Organ and Tissue Donation website at http://organdonor.gov/.

Do you need information or have questions or comments? Call toll-free 1-877-530-1824. Or, for more information about the Maya Angelou Center for Health Equity, http://www.wakehealth.edu/MACHE.


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