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Organ Donation & National Minority Health Month
By Dr. Jaime R. Torres, Regional Director, US DHHS Region 2
“With quiet compassion and exceptional generosity, organ and tissue donors leave an indelible mark on the lives of countless Americans. Their selfless acts inspire hope at moments of profound need, and they recall the giving spirit that lies at the heart of our national character.” These are the opening sentences as President Obama declared April as National Donate Life Month.
There are over 113, 000 people of all ages waiting for life-saving organ transplants in our nation, and a new name is added to that list every 10 minutes. Meantime, because of the courage of many individuals and their families, around 79 people receive organ transplants every day; these acts of kindness, save thousands of lives every year.
I met one of those courageous persons last year, Mirtala Garcia, who made the choice to donate the organs of her husband, Julio Garcia, when he died of a brain hemorrhage in 2010. Though he is not longer with us, Julio’s gift– his corneas, heart, liver, kidneys, pancreas and lungs –changed the lives of seven patients on the national waiting list. In this moving video you can see some of the recipients meeting Mirtala Garcia, and the gratitude they feel for a new lease on life!
For Mirtala and her children, Julio is a hero. “After seeing [all recipients] healthy, you feel blissful. I feel proud”, she said.
Though people of most races and ethnicities donate in proportion to their representation in the population, the need for transplant among communities of color is disproportionately high. According to HRSA, minorities make up more than half of organ donation waiting lists (55%), yet they comprise less than half of organ transplants performed (34%). This may be explained by the high incidence of chronic conditions like high blood pressure, diabetes, and others which may damage many organs in our bodies.
For example, African Americans, Asians and Pacific Islanders, and Hispanics are three times more likely than Whites to suffer from end-stage renal (kidney) disease, often as the result of high blood pressure and other conditions that can damage the kidneys. Almost 35 percent of the more than 80,000 people on the national waiting list for a kidney transplant are African American.
Donation is a field that reminds us of just how connected we all are —literally—through blood, tissue organs. People of all ages and ethnicities have the power to save lives. Like the President said; “All of us can play a part in ending this unacceptable loss of life. I encourage every American to consider becoming an organ and tissue donor; to consult their family, friends, physician, or faith leader about their decision.”
To learn more about organ and tissue donation and how to enroll in a donor registry, visit: www.OrganDonor.gov