The number of Americans currently waiting for live-saving organ transplants totals more than 123,000. Twenty-one patients die each day because there are not enough organs to meet overwhelming needs.
Those numbers were recently published in the American Journal of Transplantation. Though startling, some local folks are working to change them.
The Midwest Transplant Network awarded the Harvey County Treasurer’s office for having the greatest increase of new donors of any county in Kansas. The award was presented June 11 at the Kansas County Treasurers Association Conference, Overland Park.
It marks the second straight year the office has received this distinction.
“It means a lot,” said County treasurer Becky Fields. “It shows that they care about their job. They care about the people who come in and people donating to save someone else’s life.”
Harvey County Driver’s License Office supervisor Joanna Arce said the effort — part of the Transplant Network’s “Donate Life” campaign — has been more than just protocol. It is something she has grown passionate about.
“What we add is our own experience here in hearing the good about organ donation,” Arce said. “Families share how this program has effected their lives with us.”
Transplant donation support has spread to the tag office as well. Since the Kansas Legislature passed HB 2452 in 2014, bright purple and green Donate Life license plates have been available to Kansans with a $40 donation.
“A woman recently came in and noticed our commemorative license plates for donors,” Arce said. “She commented on her granddaughter, who at 3-months of age had received a heart transplant. The granddaughter, she said, was now 5-years old and doing great.”
Days before, Fields had shown Arce the plates. Arce soon started displaying them in the license office. They are working together.
“It’s a good talking piece,” Arce said. “By the way, the woman who told the story of her grandchild, also commented that she had her plate, because she believed in the positive impact and that it’s the right thing to do.”
Forty-three percent of Harvey County residents were registered donors as of May 2015. But the national goal is to break 50-percent registration in all counties nationally.
“With more than 10,000 patients a year dying of liver, kidney, heart or lung failure before they get their life saving opportunity these data highlight hundreds of patients each year that could be saved,” said Dr. Richard Gilroy, medical director of liver transplantation at the University of Kansas Hospital in a press release on the Journal’s findings.
Both Arce and fellow driver’s license employee Simone Llamas said there is still need, and room for more growth. Arce said helping older people donate is a big piece of the puzzle.
“We get many people who come in and don’t feel like they can be a donor,” Arce said. “We share with them that they can do this. All organs are tested for approval. …
“Then they think, ‘If I can, then I do want to donate.’”