African-American Organ and Tissue Donors Changing History
HARRISBURG, Pa., Jan. 25 /PRNewswire/ — As the accomplishments and sacrifices of African Americans in Pennsylvania are celebrated during Black History Month, more than 2,550 individuals from the African-American community in need of organ or tissue transplantation face an uncertain future.
A shortage of organ and tissue donors means nearly 60 percent of those needing a transplant will wait for more than a year. Many can expect to wait for more than five years. Waiting for matched organs may mean a recipient will be sicker at the time of transplant or, worse, die waiting.
African Americans in Pennsylvania can change the course of history by becoming organ and tissue donors. One organ and tissue donor can give more than 50 people a second chance at life.
“There is a critical need for registered donors from the African-American community in Pennsylvania,” says Janice P. Kopelman, Deputy Secretary of Health Promotion and Disease Prevention for the Pennsylvania Department of Health. “People of color suffer disproportionately from health conditions such as heart disease, hypertension and kidney failure. For many, a transplant is a viable medical option.”
While African Americans make up 11 percent of the state’s overall population, they represent 32 percent of Pennsylvanians waiting for organ or tissue transplants. The majority, more than 2,200 African Americans, are waiting for kidney transplants.
Organ and tissue donation is an extraordinary way to impact the lives of others, but many myths and misconceptions can interfere with the decision to sign up to become an organ donor. Organ donation is available to people of all ages and at no cost to their family. The process does not interfere with traditional funeral arrangements and is supported by all major religions. Organ donation takes place only after all efforts to save a life have been exhausted. In addition, organs are matched by factors such as blood and tissue types, organ size, medical urgency, waiting time and geographic location without consideration of wealth or social status.
The following is a list of Pennsylvanians whose lives have been impacted by organ donation:
- Diane Royster, of Pittsburgh, is celebrating her 20(th) year as a liver transplant recipient. Since that time she has worked hard to promote the importance of organ donation within the African-American community through her volunteer work with CORE.
- Michelle Smith, of Harrisburg, donated a kidney to her brother who developed health issues following his service in the Vietnam War. Smith has enjoyed watching her brother become an active grandparent.
- Philadelphia’s 4(th) District Councilman Curtis Jones Jr. amidst his work and commitment to the residents of Philadelphia became a liver and kidney donor to his younger brother. By giving this gift of life, the Councilman was able to aide in his brother’s speedy and healthy recovery.
Becoming an organ and tissue donor is as simple as adding the donor designation to your driver’s license, learner’s permit or state identification card. Sign up at your local Department of Motor Vehicles or by visiting www.donatelife-pa.org because Life Begins with You.
The Facts on Organ and Tissue Donation Among African Americans in Pennsylvania
While it is important for everyone to sign up to become an organ and tissue donor, Black History Month and National Donor Day on February 14(th )represent key opportunities to raise awareness about the importance of becoming designated as organ and tissue donors within the African American community.
The course of history can be changed by increasing the number of people who receive life saving transplants each year. In fact, one organ and tissue donor can give more than 50 people a second chance at life!
- African Americans make up 11 percent of Pennsylvania’s overall population, but represent nearly 32 percent of Pennsylvanians waiting for organ donor transplants.
- Of the more than 2,550 African Americans waiting for transplants in Pennsylvania, 89 percent are waiting for kidney transplants.
- African Americans represent 16 percent of transplants performed in Pennsylvania to date.
- 24.4 percent of African Americans waiting for transplants are between the ages of 50 and 64, and 28.6 percent are between the ages of 35 and 49.
How long is the wait for African Americans?
- 59.8 percent of African Americans in Pennsylvania waiting for an organ transplant have been on the waiting list for over 1 year; 10.8 percent have been waiting for more than five years.
- African Americans represent 42.1 percent of all Pennsylvanians waiting more than five years for a kidney transplant.
In Pennsylvania, African Americans represent 11.4 percent of deceased donors and 12.8 percent of living donors to date.
Pennsylvania State Transplant Waiting List Report All Kidney/ Heart/ Intes- Organs Kidney Liver Pancreas Pancreas Heart Lung Lung tine All Ethni- cities 8,061 5,765 1,431 207 200 207 140 8 103 White 4,741 2,887 1,172 175 156 165 113 4 69 Black 2,551 2,274 155 20 31 33 17 1 20 Hispanic 456 336 76 9 11 5 5 2 12 Asian 258 222 23 3 2 3 3 0 2 American Indian/ Alaska Native 16 12 3 0 0 1 0 0 0 Pacific Islander 4 4 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 Multiracial 35 30 2 0 0 0 2 1 0 According to the Organ Procurement and Transplantation Network (OPTN) as of 12.11.09. For updated information, go to http://www.optn.org
- Between September 2008 and September 2009, 1,424,924 Pennsylvanians said “yes” to organ and tissue donation and added the designation to their driver’s license.
- The organ transplant waiting list in Pennsylvania includes more than 7,900 people. Still thousands of others wait for a tissue transplant that will greatly enhance the quality of their lives.
- More than 5,900 people await transplants in the Gift of Life Donor Program service region, which includes the eastern half of Pennsylvania, southern New Jersey and Delaware.
- At the five CORE-affiliated organ transplant hospitals, serving counties in western Pennsylvania, West Virginia and a portion of New York, approximately 2,000 people are awaiting organ transplantation.
- Pennsylvanians can register as organ donors online anytime at www.donatelife-pa.org or they can sign up as an organ donor when receiving or renewing their drivers license at any one of Pennsylvania’s driver license centers.
- Can donate kidneys to free two people from the dialysis treatments needed to sustain life.
- Can save the lives of patients awaiting heart, liver, lung or pancreas transplants.
- Can give sight to two people through the donation of corneas.
- Can donate bone to help repair injured joints or to help save an arm or leg threatened by cancer or other illness.
- Can help burn victims heal more quickly through donation of skin, and provide healthy heart valves for someone whose life is threatened by malfunctioning or diseased valves.
- Can give more than 50 people a second chance at life!
CORE is a regional not-for-profit agency that is the primary call center and intermediary for the organ recovery and allocation process that serves 155 hospitals and more than six million people in western Pennsylvania, West Virginia and Chemung County in New York. CORE has helped to pioneer organ procurement allocation and recovery for this region since it was founded in 1977 as the Pittsburgh Transplant Foundation. For more information visit www.core.org
About Gift of Life Donor Program
Since 1974, Gift of Life Donor Program has served as the link between donors and patients awaiting life-saving transplants in the eastern half of Pennsylvania, southern New Jersey and Delaware. In that tenure, Gift of Life has coordinated more than 28,000 life-saving organ transplants and hundreds of thousand tissue transplants. For more information, visit www.donors1.org
Life Begins with You Campaign
The Life Begins with You campaign is a collaborative initiative between Gift of Life Donor Program (GOL), the Center for Organ & Recovery Education (CORE) – the two organ procurement organizations serving Pennsylvania – and the Pennsylvania Departments of Health and Transportation. It is funded by state residents through voluntary contributions included with driver’s license renewals, vehicle registrations and state income tax filings. All contributions are used by the Governor Robert P. Casey Memorial Organ and Tissue Donation Awareness Trust Fund to educate residents, build awareness about the importance of organ and tissue donation, and increase the number of people who sign up to become donors on their driver’s license, learner’s permit or state identification card.
One Extraordinary Way to Say Love Life.
When you choose to become an organ and tissue donor, you have the power to give the most precious gift – life. Join the nearly four million Pennsylvanians who have said “yes” to organ and tissue donation by adding the donor designation to your driver’s license, learner’s permit or state identification card. Sign up to be an organ and tissue donor today by visiting www.donatelife-pa.org because Life Begins with You.