I want to highlight an important cause this week. April is Donate Life Month, which presents an opportunity to reflect on one of the most selfless gifts a person and a family can give... life.
Donate Life Month is a national observance that helps increase awareness of the potential for organ, cornea and tissue donations to save lives.
The national waiting list for life-saving transplants has over 110,000 people. An additional one million Americans suffer from blindness, medical conditions and devastating injuries that can be treated with donated corneas or tissue.
Donate Life Month brings attention to the more than 450 Nebraskans who are currently waiting for a potentially lifesaving transplant that comes through organ or tissue donation. Last year, 303 Nebraskans received lifesaving organ transplants.
Two members of my cabinet are the beneficiaries of organs given by living donors. Beverly Neth, Director of the Nebraska Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV), and Dr. Joann Schaefer, Chief Medical Officer and Director of the Division of Public Health, have shared their stories. Today, 458 Nebraskans are awaiting a lifesaving transplant.
Nearly half of all licensed drivers in Nebraska are designated as organ donors. At the end of 2010, 656,875 Nebraskans were signed up as designated donors on the Nebraska Donor Registry, which included more than 23,000 new registrations for the year.
Fifteen Nebraska counties had at least 50 percent of applicants for driver's license or state identification cards join the Nebraska Donor Registry in 2010, up from 10 counties in 2009. Arthur County residents hold the distinction of being the first in the state to have a donor designation rate above 60 percent.
The range includes Arthur County, where 61.1 percent of all DMV applicants joined the state donor registry to Cheyenne County at 50 percent, with other counties falling somewhere in between, including: Sarpy, Cass, Washington, Kearney, Buffalo, Dawes, Gosper, Keith, Hamilton, Harlan, Garden, Perkins, and Lancaster. An additional 69 Nebraska counties have donor designation rates of at least 40 percent.
Donate Life Nebraska is the federally designated organ procurement agency in Nebraska. This organization plays a critical role in helping match donors with patients in need. Those wishing to learn more about organ donation and anyone interested in registering to become a donor can do so online at www.DonateLifeNebraska.com. You can also signal your intent to be an organ donor when applying for or renewing a Nebraska driver's license or state ID card.
The lives of friends and family here in Nebraska and others across the country can be forever changed with the selfless gift of an organ or tissue donation.
Thank you to the live kidney and liver donors who have made a personal commitment to save the life of relative, friend or stranger in need. Thank you those families who have so selflessly given others a chance at life, and thank you to the many Nebraskans who have indicated their willingness to be organ donors. It is a tremendous gift.