Today, Donate Life America celebrates National Donate Life Blue and Green Day to inspire people to register as organ donors. It was seven years ago this week that I donated a kidney to my former husband, George Lopez. Giving the Gift of Life, as organ donation is called, has had a profound effect on my own life. I have experienced first hand the elation of a successful transplant but I have also held the hand of those waiting for their own transplant miracle.
Currently, there are more than 112,000 men, women and children on the national transplant waiting list. Each one of these individuals is a mother, a father, a son, a daughter, a sister or a brother, and their illness affects the entire family. Their wait on the transplant list depends on the availability of an organ match. Unless they have a living donor, the average wait on the list is 5 to 7 years. The good news is that about 80 transplants are performed each day in the United States, resulting in 28,535 organ transplants in 2011. Now for the bad news: because so few people pass away under circumstances where organ donation is possible, 18 people die each DAY waiting for a transplant. This hit close to home last year when my daughter and her entire school lost a beloved athletic coach, Coach Q, as he waited for a kidney transplant.
I spend a lot of time at Children's Hospital Los Angeles, where the need for organ transplants is heartbreaking. I recently met Sara, a beautiful, smart and funny 13-year-old girl whose dream is to grow up to be a fashion designer. Unfortunately, Sara had to be taken off the list because she grew too sick waiting for a heart/lung transplant. I was told the odds are that she will not get well enough to be put back on the list. The wait is just too long. Then there is Omar, a precocious 10-year-old, who just had an artificial heart installed so he can stay alive and continue to wait on the transplant list. He is cheerful and upbeat and wants to be a magician. Over in the dialysis unit, Twilight-loving teenagers are surrounded by Team Edward and Team Jacob posters. Each of them is waiting for a kidney so that they will no longer have to be hooked up to a machine for three hours a day, three times a week.
There are 112,000 of these stories, but each of the people behind them have hope. This year, Donate Life America's goal is to register 20 million organ donors in 2012. You can be a living donor like me, or register to be a donor after you are gone. After you have lived a long life, you can save eight lives by being an organ donor. Talk to your family and friends about organ donation and find out how they feel about it. If is the right decision for you, go to www.DonateLifeAmerica.org and register to be an organ donor, or check 'Yes' when you renew your driver's license or ID. Be a donor and save lives.
Today I will be wearing Donate Life's blue and green colors, not only to inspire my friends to be donors, but also for Sara, Omar and the other 112,000 waiting.