One of the first big decisions I made when I turned 18 was decide what to do with my body when I died. I signed the organ donation line on the back of my license and registered as an organ donor the day I visited the Texas Department of Safety for my new grown-up license. I didn’t know then how important organ donation would come to be to my family.
Before my mother died, she received a bone marrow transplant that gave her a fighting chance to beat her cancer. My uncle gained an extra ten years of life after receiving a heart transplant. I’ve had friends receive kidneys and livers and one even a bone for his leg. Two years ago, my then nearly nine year old step-nephew received a double transplant of a kidney and liver; the challenge was that both organs had to come from the same donor.
The really sad part of organ donation is that often someone has to die for the transplant to take place. My sister-in-law was an emotional basket case bouncing between joy for her son having a chance to live and a combined sadness and guilt that a 17 year old boy had died in an accident and it was his organs that Clay would be receiving. A family was grieving while another was celebrating.
The good news is that the liver Clay received is still thriving and healthy; the bad news is that for the past year, the kidney has been failing. My sister-in-law drives an hour each way to the hospital on a daily basis for Clay to receive about six hours of dialysis. I just can’t fathom what a little trooper this boy is; it brings tears to my eyes just thinking about what he endures and makes me so thankful for the health of my children.
A new donor has been found for Clay and no one had to die. By some stroke of divine intervention, my brother, Clay’s step-dad, is a match and has been approved to be a living donor for Clay’s new kidney. This isn’t such a new thing, for each of the past five years, there are approximately 6,200 living donor transplants occurring; my brother is about to join that number.
With more than 111,000 people waiting on the national organ donation transplant list and 19 people dying each day waiting for a transplant, living donors have become more important than ever. Living donors can donate a kidney, a segment of their liver, a lobe of a lung, a portion of an intestine or a portion of their pancreas. Living donors can direct their donation, like my brother is with his donation, or the donation can be made to someone waiting on the national organ transplant list.
The need is greater than ever for people of color to become organ donors. The statistics on non-white organ donation is not favorable for a person of color waiting for a transplant. The chances of locating a tissue match within a person’s ethnicity is greater.
In 2008, 67 percent of all deceased donors were white, 16 percent were Black, 14 percent were Hispanic and 2.5 percent were Asian.
As of November 2010, the national waiting list was made up of 45 percent white, 29 percent Black, 18 percent Hispanic and 6 percent Asian candidates.
I’m appreciative of the people who passed away, and their families who made the decision to donate their organs. Their selflessness in death gave life to others. If you haven’t already done so, I’d encourage you to consider signing that line on your drivers license and register as a donor to ensure your wishes are met.
While I’m not a match for my nephew, I’m going to do my part by suffering through a couple of weeks of Houston, Texas winter and take care of my brother post surgery. I’m so proud of him for this selfless act and I want to be there for him as he recovers - did I mention it’s close to 80 degrees there today?