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Donor Alliance Looks to Increase the Number of Registered Organ Donors during National Minority Donor Awareness Week

Donor Alliance, the federally-designated, non-profit organ procurement organization and American Association of Tissue Banks (AATB) accredited tissue bank serving Colorado and most of Wyoming today announced it will be designating August 1_7 as National Minority Donor Awareness Week. The nationwide observance aims to educate minorities of the need for organ, eye and tissue donors within multicultural communities.

In the U.S., there are more than 66,000 minority individuals [this number includes Blacks, Asians, Hispanics, American Indians, Pacific Islanders and people of multiracial decent] registered on U.S. organ transplant waiting lists. This population comprises 56 percent of all individuals on national organ transplant waiting lists, 32 percent of living and deceased organ donors, while only making up 36 percent of the U.S. population. Many of the conditions leading to the need for a transplant, such as diabetes and hypertension, occur with greater frequency among minority populations.

Currently, minorities comprise nearly 40 percent of all individuals on Colorado transplant waiting lists. In 2012, twenty-five percent of deceased organ donors were minorities, demonstrating a gap between minority donors and those in need of a lifesaving transplant.

Although organs are not matched according to race/ethnicity and people of different races frequently match one another, individuals waiting for an organ transplant have a better chance of receiving a transplant if there are larger numbers of donors from their racial/ethnic background. This is because compatible blood types and tissue markers—critical qualities for donor/recipient matching—are more likely to be found among members of the same ethnicity. A greater diversity of donors could potentially increase access to transplantation for everyone.

Steve Johnson, one of Donor Alliance’s Advocates for Life will be dedicating his time this week, educating minority groups about the need primarily in African American and Hispanic communities and encourage them to get the facts and register to be donors.

Steve knows first-hand what it feels like to be in need of a transplant. In late 1995, he went to see his doctor and was diagnosed with several chronic conditions including lupus, high blood pressure, rheumatoid arthritis and recurring asthma. It was during the series of medical tests, Steve found out he had been born with only one kidney and Lupus was attacking it, making his condition not only serious, but life-threatening. After undergoing dialysis treatments, his kidney function improved slightly, but in 1998, the organ finally gave out. Before Steve was placed on the list, all three of his brothers got tested as potential living donors. Harold, a Lieutenant for the Denver Fire Department, was the first to get tested and was a match, donating his kidney on January 13, 1999.

The need for more donors from ethnic minority groups is critical. In 2012, 11,309 minority patients received organ transplants; while there were 2,762 minority deceased donors and 1,711 minority living donors. The wait is long and sadly, 18 people die every day because the transplant they so desperately needed did not come in time.

Steve reflects, “Fortunately, I have not suffered any recurring kidney-related issues, and—amazingly—no rejection episodes.” Steve and Harold celebrated the 14th anniversary of their transplant in January and intend to celebrate many more.

Donor Alliance will be celebrating the week by hosting a day-long donor designation drive at the Blair-Caldwell African American Research Library located on the Northwest corner of Welton and 24th Street in the Five Points Neighborhood in Denver. Join kidney recipients Archie Jones, Steve Johnson and John McKeever from 10 AM to 3 PM. The public is encouraged to attend this event and help spread the word about the lifesaving power of donation.

To learn more about organ and tissue donation and to register, visit www.DonateLifeColorado.org.