Let's boost organ donation to better than 50 percent

Monday, April 2, 2012

Public officials are called upon to make all sorts of public appearances, and we know they enjoy some more than others.

We have a feeling there was no trouble getting a couple of public officials to Thursday's launch of April's Donate Life Month.

Dr. Joann Schaefer, chief medical officer and director of the Division of Public Health, and Beverly Neth, director of the Nebraska Department of Motor Vehicles, joined Gov. Dave Heineman and Lisa Carmichael, vice president of Donate Life Nebraska at the event.

Two of those officials, Dr. Schaefer and Ms. Neth, know first hand how important organ donation is.

Dr. Schaefer received a liver transplant in 2008, and Neth has twice received living kidney donations from relatives.

"Part of me is about to turn 4 years old," Schaefer said. "I wouldn't be here today without the generosity of my donor. His gift has given me a second chance to live my life and I will be eternally grateful."

And, Ms. Neth, who has twice received living kidney donations from relatives, is grateful her department plays such a big part in facilitating organ donation.

"The role the DMV plays in supporting organ and tissue donation is one of the most satisfying elements of my job," Neth said. "I'm especially pleased that Nebraskans will be able to show their support of organ and tissue donation through the new Donate Life license plate.

At the end of 2011, 699,015 Nebraskans were designated donors on the Nebraska Donor Registry, an increase of more than 12,000 registrations since the end of 2010. Approximately half of licensed drivers in Nebraska are designated as organ donors.

Fourteen Nebraska counties had at least 50 percent of applicants for driver's license or state identification cards join the Nebraska Donor Registry in 2011. Southwest Nebraska is represented by Frontier County, where 50.3 percent of drivers have signed up.

DMV records indicate that 63 Nebraska counties have a donor designation rate between 40 and 49.9 percent. A goal set by Donate Life America and the donation and transplant community in 2006 was achieved this fall. Some 100 million people in the United States are now reported as registered organ, eye and tissue donors through state donor registries.

"These numbers represent more than statistics," Carmichael said. Each person who signs up as a donor can potentially save eight lives through organ donation, restore sight to two people through cornea donation, and improve mobility and health of up to 50 others through tissue donation, he said.

"These are real lives that are being dramatically impacted by Nebraskans making the decision to sign up on the Nebraska Donor Registry," Carmichael said.

If you'd like to participate in the Donate Life specialty license plate program to promote organ, eye and tissue donation, which will require 500 applications as well as a check for the annual fee of $70, go to www.donatelifenebraska.com to download the application.

In Nebraska, 450 individuals are on a waiting list for organ and tissue donations. In 2011, 261 Nebraskans received lifesaving organ transplants.

It's great that more than half of the drivers in Frontier County are signed up as organ donors, and we're sure the levels are not far behind elsewhere in the area. But we can do better; please consider signing up next time you renew your drivers license.

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  • Your story about Organ Donation highlighted the tragic shortage of human organs for transplant operations.

    There are now over 113,000 people on the National Transplant Waiting List, with over 50% of these people dying before they get a transplant. Most of these deaths are needless. Americans bury or cremate 20,000 transplantable organs every year.

    There is a simple way to put a big dent in the organ shortage -- give donated organs first to people who have agreed to donate their own organs when they die.

    Giving organs first to organ donors will convince more people to register as organ donors. It will also make the organ allocation system fairer. Everyone who is willing to receive should be willing to give.

    Anyone who wants to donate their organs to others who have agreed to donate theirs can join LifeSharers. LifeSharers is a non-profit network of organ donors who agree to offer their organs first to other organ donors when they die. Membership is free at www.lifesharers.org or by calling

    1-888-ORGAN88. There is no age limit, parents can enroll their minor children, and no one is excluded due to any pre-existing medical condition. LifeSharers has over 15,000 members as of this writing, including 32 members in Nebraska.

    Please contact me - Dave Undis, Executive Director of LifeSharers - if your readers would like to learn more about our innovative approach to increasing the number of organ donors. I can arrange interviews with some of our local members if you're interested. My email address is daveundis@lifesharers.org. My phone number is 615-351-8622.

    -- Posted by LIFESHARERS on Tue, Apr 3, 2012, at 9:41 AM
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