The Danville Public Library served as host Thursday for an event with an important message for the community. “This is our first time putting this day on, and we hope to continue to do it,” said Barb Nolan, Danville Public Library director.
National Minority Donor Awareness Day was the focus for the day at the library. The awareness is for all ethnicities, but especially minorities to register to be an organ/tissue donor, marrow donor or blood donor.
“We need to recruit more diverse people to be on our registry to cure people of the diseases such as leukemia and lymphoma,” said Amanda Howie, donor relations coordinator for Community Blood Services.
Howie is in charge of setting up blood drives for Vermilion and Champaign counties. She urges minorities to sign up to be marrow donors.
“A bone marrow match is usually only found within their own ethnicity. Caucasians are going to find a match about 93 percent of the time and for an African-American, they are only going to find a match 66 percent of the time, so there is a huge discrepancy there,” Howie said.
For organ and tissue donation, there is no requirement for matches to be in the same ethnicity. Acceptable organs include the heart, liver, lungs, kidneys, pancreas and intestines.
Tissues include skin, bone, corneas, tendons, heart valves, saphenous veins, blood and bone marrow. Kidneys have the most need on the registry right now.
Barry Thomas was a recipient of a kidney five years ago. He was the third person in line to get the transplant, but after five years of waiting, he was the healthy match and received the kidney five hours after he learned he was chosen to receive it. He was in surgery from 9 p.m. until 4 a.m. and now is healthy and has yearly check-ups.
Thomas now keeps busy, supporting donating organizations and volunteering for seven to eight shows a year.
“I go wherever they need me, I keep moving. I received this kidney, and now I have new energy,” Thomas said.
There are more than 105,000 people waiting for lifesaving organ transplants nationwide. More than 4,800 men, women and children from Illinois are on the organ transplant waiting list.
Last year in Illinois alone, 2,159 African-Americans were on the waiting list for organs or tissue donations, and only 81 African-Americans became donors.
By joining the registry to be a donor, the commitment to donation will not interfere with medical care. Organ and tissue donation only becomes an option after all life-saving efforts have been made and death has been declared. Organs are distributed based upon medical information like blood type, body size and tissue type matching through a national computer network operated by the United Network for Organ Sharing. There is no cost to the donor’s family; expenses are covered by the recipients or medical insurance companies.
Jacque Eicher is a firm believer in becoming a donor. Her two sons were recipients of kidneys and a pancreas. Eicher’s daughter wanted to donate to help her brothers, but she was the wrong blood type. When her daughter died from a massive stroke, 13 organs were donated.
Eicher now is a donor and says recipients can “have whatever they need” when she passes.
“Miracles do happen. Donate,” Eicher said.
There are other organizations to look into for information such as the Illinois organ/tissue donor registry, http://www.LifeGoesOn.com or the organ, eye and tissue donation at http://www.giftofhope.org or call (888) 307-DON8 (3668). Contact Midwest Eye Banks at (800) 247-7250 or http://www.midwesteyebanks.org for the restoration of sight. For marrow donation, contact http://www.BeTheMatch.org or (800) MARROW-2. Howie urges potential donors to also call (800) 217-GIVE for more information about bone marrow donations.