There are many myths pertaining to the subject of organ and tissue donation. Some are so deeply ingrained in a person’s psyche, he or she dismisses fact and logic and holds fast to unsupported claims; however, there is one fact that cannot be dismissed: if organ donation did not exist, thousands of people would die.
As it stands, 22 Americans die daily because of the lack of available organs for transplant. According to the United Network for Organ Sharing, more than 25% of those who died awaiting a transplant in 2015 were African American. Currently, 30% of patients waiting for a lifesaving transplant are African American, and unfortunately, the wait time for many of these individuals is greater than their white counterparts.
Debra Cason is one of the thousands of individuals listed for an organ transplant. Cason led an active life prior to her kidney failure diagnosis. She traveled, worked full time, and helped her youngest son transition from high school to college. However, after almost eight years of waiting for the right match, she is no longer able to live the life she once enjoyed.
“As a kidney patient, I suffer with bouts of anemia and low energy levels,” said Cason. “I have been unable to secure full time employment and travel at will.
Thousands of other African Americans throughout the country are waiting for the chance to reclaim the lives they once had. If more people made the decision to become an organ donor, the wait times would be reduced. “
“We look for genes that are a match in the same race,” said Dr. Mayra Lopez-Cepero, Senior Vice President and Director of the LifeLink® Transplantation Immunology Laboratory.
Lopez-Cepero and her staff work to make sure the best matches are made between an organ donor and recipient.
“The majority of African Americans are in blood group B. This is also the least common of the blood in the population. This is one of the reasons African Americans may wait longer for a transplant.”
“For those who have not decided to become an organ donor, I would encourage them to get all the knowledge they can about organ donation and realize how many people would benefit with such a selfless gift of life,” said Cason. “I have always been a person who believed that all things are possible no matter how bad it seems,” she continued. “I have faith in God who makes things possible, and I believe that some good will come to my situation.”
Signing up to be an organ donor is simple. One can declare their wishes when renewing or receiving a driver’s license/identification card at the DMV or online at www.registerme.org. Organ donation occurs after death and one donor could save up to eight lives. One “yes” can make a difference.
FACTS ABOUT ORGAN DONATION:
The Rose Parade is America’s New Year celebration that showcases the very best of community spirit and love. This year marked the 13th appearance of the Donate Life float in the parade and several AMAT organizational members were present to honor donor families and recipients. Here’s a recap!
Sierra Donor Services was honored to send the Perez Family to honor their family member, Marina Perez, who became a donor in 2012. It was a bittersweet week spent remembering the good times and focusing on the good that can come from donation. The family attended the Floragraph Breakfast; they helped decorate the float (including mom, Nicole, lovingly placing Marina’s floragraph on the float), and they participated in the float judging. One of the most touching moments was when Marina’s baby sisters, Natalie and Madalina, were able to be close to her floragraph and were chatting with Marina about what they remember, “Hi Sissy, I remember when you used to put make up on me.” It was a wonderful way to honor a beautiful, generous young lady who was wise beyond her thirteen years.
Donor Network West joined the 2016 Donate Life Float in celebration of Sisto Fuentes and the lives he saved, including that of his family friend, George Grimm. Sisto, a selfless giver, was honored with a floragraph proudly displayed next to George, a float rider and one of four lives saved by Sisto’s generous act of donation. The Rose Parade festivities also served as the perfect backdrop for three of Sisto’s brothers to finally meet George, the man in whom Sisto’s heart lives on.
LifeLink Foundation highlighted and shared a courageous story of donors and families following a 2014 Venice plane crash. Ommy Irizarry, and his daughter, Oceana, were memorialized for both the lives they led and the gifts they gave. Oceana saved the lives of three people, and Ommy’s gift of tissue donation changed the lives of dozens of others. LifeLink Foundation shared a special press release and supported the Rose Parade celebration through all of their social media networks.
NJ Sharing Network was proud to officially send New Jersey representatives to Pasadena for the 2016 Parade of Roses. It was an amazing opportunity to remember those who gave, honor those who received, and give hope to those who continue to wait. It was also a time to remember those who have passed waiting for life-saving transplant.
Bridge to Life, Ltd. was the proud sponsor of the Betsy Niles’ floragraph for the 2016 Parade of Roses. With the help of Sigma Pi International Fraternity – Montclair State University Chapter, Betsy’s family was sent off in style. NJ Sharing Network was proud to honor our heroes and collaborate with Bridge to Life, Ltd. for the third year in a row.
Martin Luther King, Jr. Day celebrates the life of a great man and his ability to bring together an entire nation. Dr. King believed that we would eventually live in a society where the content of our character defined us: not the color of our skin. He believed that every person would and should have the same inalienable rights ensured by the constitution, and he put his life on the line to protect this ideal. From Selma, to Montgomery, to the steps of the Lincoln Memorial and his famous “I Have a Dream” speech, Dr. King endured mass hatred, bigotry, ignorance, and a lack of personal safety – all in the name of equality. And, he did so selflessly.
On Monday, January 18, we celebrate this spirit of sacrifice and selflessness. We celebrate the life of a man who preached non-violence, fought for freedom and justice for all, and focused on the power of unconditional love.
And what of unconditional love? Where is its place in lifesaving and enhancing organ, eye and tissue donation?
One needn’t look any further for the answer than the donors and donor families in this county. In 2015 alone, more than 12,000 individuals gave the Gift of Life (deceased and living donation combined). More than 30,000 enhanced lives through tissue donation after passing, a no less heroic legacy, and in the decades prior, still more heroes made it possible for others to live.
Simply put: Donors epitomize unconditional love.
The same can be said of donor families who, in the depths of despair, on the most difficult day of their lives, exhibit unconditional love by consenting to organ donation or honoring the wishes of their loved ones. Not knowing where their loved one’s gifts will go, and knowing fully they’ll likely save complete strangers, unconditional love is exemplified.
Dr. King dreamed of a world where neighbors would help neighbors simply because it was the right thing to do – that members of our communities would help others, regardless of their race or religion, for no other reason than a responsibility to the betterment of mankind.
He once stated, “Life’s most persistent and urgent question is, ‘What are you doing for others?’”
Each day, donors and donor families in our nation and around the world answer that very question.
And they do so lovingly … selflessly … unconditionally.
His symptoms began with dizziness, shortness of breath, heart palpitations and edema in the ankles, feet and calves. After visiting with multiple doctors, in 2007, Len Strickland was diagnosed with Familial Amyloidosis, a rare hereditary disease that eventually leads to congestive heart failure. After approximately a year of tests, in March 2008, Len was officially placed on the regional heart transplant list. The categories of placement on the list are 1A, 1B and 2 with 1A being the most severe. Len was told he had been designated as a 2 and told to keep his hopes at a minimum. Then, on Wednesday, June 11, three months and one week after being placed on the bottom of the waiting list, Len went into surgery and an hour and a half later, awoke to a new heart. The only reason Len says he received his new heart in such a short period of time was due to the fact that he was the only AB positive blood type recipient on the list.
“I am extremely fortunate and blessed for my new heart, and the most stimulating aspect of this journey is that my wife, Karen, and I have been able to spend quality time with our grandchildren. We have been able to travel and live our lives as we did prior to my transplant and see the world. Since my transplant we have traveled to nineteen countries, including Antarctica”. Len says he will continue to tell his story to encourage others: “If I can do it, it is possible with positive thoughts and determination. You can as well.” –