Learn the Facts
National Minority Donor Awareness Month brings attention to the need for more organ/tissue donors within all minority communities. Originally established in 1996 as a weeklong observance during the first week of August, it was recently expanded to include the entire month of August. National Minority Donor Awareness Month brings together national and state organizations to highlight the need for more ethnically diverse donors using educational outreach, the promotion of healthy living and disease prevention to lessen the need for transplants, and by encouraging donor registration.
Individuals in African American, Hispanic/Latino, Asian American and Native American/Alaskan Native communities make up nearly 65% of the national transplant waiting list of more than 100,000 in this country; however, the number of donors within these communities is relatively small. Nationally, the number of minority donors is about 35%. While transplants are, many times, successful between ethnicities, sometimes the long-term success of a transplant can be better within a common genetic background. Generally, a more diverse donor pool may help shorten the waiting list for everyone.
Many diseases and chronic health conditions lead to the need for transplants, specifically in multi-cultural communities. Conditions such as diabetes, high blood pressure, hypertension and chronic liver disease affect the kidneys, heart, liver and pancreas. The most needed transplant among those waiting is a kidney, for which there is a nearly 5-year wait.
A single organ donor can provide lifesaving organ transplants to eight individuals. Organs that can be transplanted include the heart, two lungs, two kidneys, the pancreas, liver and small intestines. A single tissue donor can provide life-enhancing tissue transplants to dozens of individuals. Tissue transplants include corneas that restore sight, bones, veins, ligaments, tendons and skin. Each year more than 85,000 corneas are donated nationally and nearly 2 million tissue transplants make life better for individuals each year.
What can you do to help increase the number of organs available for transplant?
It’s easy! Register to be an organ/tissue donor today! If you are 16 or older with a valid Illinois driver’s license or state ID, register your decision without leaving home. It takes just 30 seconds!
- Registering to be a donor will not affect the care you receive in a medical emergency situation. Donation only becomes an option AFTER brain death is declared. The doctors in the ER are different from the doctors who recover organs or do transplants.
- Most major eastern and western religions support donation. Faith leaders agree that donation is acceptable and, many times, encouraged.
- Rich and famous people do not receive transplants ahead of others on the waiting list. When matching donor organs to recipients, the computerized matching system uses criteria such as severity of illness, blood type, time spent waiting and other medical information and geographical location. Financial or celebrity status or race are not considered.
- A donor can have an open casket at a funeral. Organs are removed in a respectful surgical procedure and the body carefully restored. There are no visible signs of donation.
- You are never too old or too sick to consider donation. Anyone, regardless of age or medical history, can be a potential donor. The transplant team will determine at the time of an individual’s death whether donation is possible. Never rule yourself out.
- A donor’s family is never charged for the removal of organs nor do they receive compensation. All costs associated with donation are covered by the organ procurement organization (OPO).
The Donor Process
The donor process–from an individual registering their donor decision to actually becoming a donor–may seem a little overwhelming for many. So many things need to happen in a very short period of time for successful donation to occur. How is it all done?
In an effort to clarify this process, we have included a flowchart below, accompanied by a step-by-step description of what happens every step of the way. From signing up as a potential donor to the reality of saving lives with organs or enhancing lives with tissues is a journey. The donor’s family is supported every step of the way by teams involved in the transplant process. Those involved explain everything that is going to take place, answer any questions and provide emotional support throughout the entire journey.
Registration to Transplantation Step-by-Step Process
- In Illinois, a person registers to be an organ and tissue donor with a valid Illinois driver’s license or state ID by visiting a Driver Services facility, visiting LifeGoesOn.com or calling 800-210-2106.
- The person is involved in a life-threatening situation and taken to a hospital where their condition is evaluated.
- After all lifesaving efforts are exhausted and brain death has been declared, the individual is placed on or kept on a ventilator in order to preserve the organs for possible donation.
- Hospital staff contacts the organ procurement organization (OPO) to report the death.
- The OPO staff arrives at the hospital and talks to the donor’s family and others about the possibility of donation.
- The OPO contacts the Secretary of State’s office, which maintains the donor registry, to determine if the person is a registered donor.
- If the individual is in the donor registry, the OPO staff will meet with the family, explaining the donation process, supporting the family with the decision and answering any questions.
- If the individual is not listed in the registry, the OPO staff will ask the family for permission to donate, answer any questions they have about the process and help them make an informed decision.
- The United Network for Organ Sharing (UNOS) manages the candidate waiting list and the allocation of organs. Organs are allocated to waiting patients by medical criteria.
- Organs are surgically removed from the donor, in a very respectful surgical procedure, and transported to candidates who are waiting for them at transplant centers. The donor’s body is very carefully restored afterwards. There are no visible signs of donation.
- Candidates receive their lifesaving transplants, and the donor’s family can proceed with their end-of-life plans to ensure their loved one’s wishes are fulfilled.
- Transplantation saves tens of thousands of lives each year. A single donor can save and restore 25 lives or more through organ and tissue donation.
- Register to be a Donor