The Need for Donation
||She was such a wonderful woman…she
had primary biliary cirrhosis…she had been waiting for a liver
for years and was doing fairly well, but then suddenly her health
started deteriorating. She just got sicker and sicker…she was
so sick…fading away, really. The wait was unbearable…You
get so close to these patients. Her family was starting to give up…the
entire team was distraught-the physicians, the secretary, the surgeons,
the nurses, the coordinator, the social workers-the entire team was
getting desperate. We kept saying, "We have to get her a liver
tonight!" But still she waited; no matching liver became available.
These are the words of Maureen, a registered nurse for over 25 years, who
works on a liver transplant team in a large metropolitan medical center.
Having committed her professional life to organ and tissue donation, she
is clearly passionate about organ and tissue donation and the patients who
The patient kept saying, "I feel so bad because
I'm waiting for someone to die." But we kept saying to her, "No,
you're waiting for someone to donate!" Still she got sicker and
weaker. But then, just at the 11th hour, she got a liver! It was just
sheer luck! Although the recovery took time because she had been so
sick, she's now doing beautifully. Ultimately, it was a gratifying
This was a good outcome, according to Maureen. But she and many nurses
continue to struggle with frustration related to organ and tissue donation.
The solution seems so simple for patients who are awaiting transplant.
Many people hope until the last moment and the organ doesn't come.
An average of 21 people die each day while awaiting transplantation (organdonor.gov, 2015). Many of these patients would live
if all medically suitable potential donors or their families say
“yes” to donation.
According to the United Network for Organ Sharing (UNOS), as of January, 2015,
there were more than 123,500 individuals waiting for a life-saving organ
transplant across the United States. As of January, 2015, the list included
1,001 children younger than 18 years of age. The need for kidneys tops
the list, followed by liver and heart. Transplant hospitals place individuals
on the national waiting list after they are given careful medical evaluations.
Each month, approximately 500 people in the United States are added to
the national waiting list.
Nearly 29,000 Americans (about 79 each day) receive organ transplants
every year with the vast majority, nearly 23,000, receiving a transplant from a donor.
There is a particularly urgent need for minority organ donation. The need for transplant in minority populations is disproportionately high, due to the frequent incidence of conditions such as high blood pressure or diabetes, both of can lead to the need for a kidney transplant. While skin color is not a barrier when it comes to organ donations and transplants, the odds of a transplant being successful are much greater when a minority recipient receives an organ from a minority donor (New York Alliance for Donation, 2015). As of
January, 2015, approximately 35,000 African-Americans, 20,000 Latinos, 8,000 Asians,
and over 2,000 other non-Caucasians were on the waiting list. However,
in 2013, only about 1,370 African-Americans, 1,111 Latinos, 189 Asians,
and less than 140 other non-Caucasians donated organs at the time of their
death (UNOS, 2015).
More than 10,300 New Yorkers are on the national waiting list for transplantation;
this list includes approximately 3,700 Caucasions, 3,600 African-Americans, 2,000 Latinos, 1,000
Asians, and 80 other non-Caucasian individuals (UNOS, 2015a).
In 2013, 9,171 people died in the United States under
conditions that made them medically suitable, potential organ donors. However,
only 8,268 of those who died in 2013 became organ donors (UNOS, 2015b).
In 2013, of the 574 individuals who died in New York State who could have potentially become organ donors, only 356, or 62%, actually donated their organs. This is significantly below the national average of 76%
The value of donation does not only translate into saved lives. The following
two stories are from New York residents who chose to donate the organs
of their loved ones. More can be read at www.donormemorial.org.
|Dale Brachtenbach, Organ
1949 - 2004
My dad loved life to the fullest.
He raised me to be the best I could. His entire world revolved around
my needs and happiness. When I was a little girl he would take me
on vacations to Florida or we would go to Canada for a weekend just
to get away. My dad and I also became a foster family for nearly
20 greyhounds in about a six-year period. He spent many weekends
going to pick up retired greyhounds from tracks to give them a chance
at a happy home life. We actually had four greyhounds of our own.
My dad had the biggest heart I know of. He was and still is my world.
With my parents being divorced it was he who got custody. I am happy
to say that I was with my dad until the very end and he is now my
guardian angel. He was the greatest man in my life and am proud
to call Dale Brachtenbach my father. He was wonderful, and was taken
from me entirely too early. He was only 55 when he passed away from
a cerebral hemorrhage. I chose to give his gift of life to others;
he was a giving man and would have done the same. My father will
forever be the greatest man and influence on my life. The grieving
has not gotten easier; it's just one more day to deal with a great
loss. I love him more than life itself. I am proud of my father
and I know he is proud of me.
Maryann Drago, Organ
1969 - 2002
Maryann was a wonderful person and the best sister.
She was very outgoing and loved by everyone. She loved to go out
and sing Karaoke, even though she wasn't the best of singers. At
parties she never sat down. She loved to do every dance from the
Macarena to the Chicken Dance! On my wedding video you actually
see her more than you do me! She worked as a teacher at a day care
center and was just about to get a promotion. She had a son named
C.J. He was nine when she passed away. About a year and a half before
she passed away, she married a man named Michael. She was very happy...
On April 10, 2002, at the age of 32, this all changed. My sister
suffered from a severe asthma attack. She stopped breathing, and
went into cardiac arrest. Two days later she was pronounced brain
dead. It was so sudden and devastating to my whole family. We were
all in total agreement in the decision of donation. My sister would
have wanted to help other people; that was just the kind of person
she was. That decision has helped me cope with a lot of pain and
grief. I know that while I was crying for the loss of my sister,
my friend, others were crying tears of joy, for the new life of
their loved one. I know that they appreciate the gift of life and
hope they live life to the fullest everyday. There is not a day
that goes by that I do not think of my sister. I love her very much
and am very thankful for the time I had with my big sis!
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