Make a Difference, Be a Donor
August is National Minority Donor Awareness Month
The National Organ, Eye, and Tissue Donation Multicultural Action Group (NMAG) founded the collaborative undertaking called “National Minority Donor Awareness Month” (NMDAM), observed in August, to raise awareness about donation and transplantation, striving to save, heal and enrich more lives in diverse, multicultural populations.
Why Shouldn’t Target Minority Donors the Focus Be on Minority Recipients?
Organ, eye, and tissue transplants save over 40,000 lives in the United States alone, and donors provide the organs. More diversity among organ donors benefits one and all. But the question remains: why seek out more minority donors?
People will typically have a better probability of matching with someone from a similar racial or ethnic background even though organ matching does not contemplate race or ethnicity. The explanation is that individuals belonging to the same ethnic group are more likely to have compatible tissue markers used to determine a match.
Each organ recipient needs a matching donor, considering blood type and similar body size, among other factors. If the donor’s blood type works with the recipient’s blood type, the donor will take the tissue typing test to determine the recipient’s Human Leukocyte Antigen (HLA) type and the donor and ascertain how well they match. This test checks to see if the recipient’s body will likely reject the donor’s organ. When a human body detects antigens on a transplanted organ that are different from its own, it treats the organ as a foreign object and sends white blood cells to get rid of the new organ, leading to organ rejection.
Tissue typing is where the importance of minority donors comes in.
Certain racial or ethnic groups have a higher prevalence of some HLA types and, therefore, more likelihood of matching in a similar group. The diversity of donors opens the way to the diversity of recipients.
What is Brittany’s Gift?
Brittany, a fearless, friendly sophomore in college with a catching smile, looked forward to studying law and serving youth in her community. On April 1, 2012, she went bowling with some friends, but on her way home, Brittany suffered a car accident, and the staff declared her brain dead at the hospital. As her parents started facing the tragedy, her mother remembered that Brittany had told her she wanted to be an organ donor. So they made sure that their daughter’s wishes were honored.
Brittany’s parents realized that her thoughtful gifts granted four people a second chance at life. However, the story doesn’t end there. After losing Brittany, her parents learned that African Americans are more likely to suffer from diseases that lead to organ failure than other racial groups. So they launched Give Life, Save Life: The Brittany Crawford Foundation, which works to raise awareness of organ donation in the African American Community.
Her father also volunteers as a Donate Life Ambassador, speaking at Bay Area high schools and other organizations on the vital and urgent meaning and impact of registering as a donor.
“Telling Brittany’s story helps take some of the grief away,” says Brittany’s father. “At the end of the day, organ donation saves lives.”
How Many People are Recipients of Organ Transplants?
In 2021 over 40,000 people in the United States received organ transplants, but over 100,000 were on the list, hoping not to die before they got a match. Each year, almost as many people die from organ failure as are on the transplant waiting list! As of February 2022, nearly 106,000 people in the United States were on the waiting list for a lifesaving organ transplant, the lowest since 2009. The list peaked at 124,000 in 2014.
Why has this improved? Every nine minutes, another name is added to the waiting list, but the number of registered donors has also set record highs for the last eleven years. Who made this happen? All those who work and campaign for awareness of the urgent need for donated organs and the open option to save lives by registering as donors.
How Many Lives Can One Organ Donor Rescue?
Just one deceased organ donor can save up to eight lives! One donor can restore vision with corneal (eye) transplants, heal burns, prevent amputations or reduce pain with tissue transplants for as many as 75 people.
What Can You Do to Support Minority Donor Awareness?
Think about it, face your fears, google it, talk about it, and register. Share your thoughts and understanding on social media, or post stories or flyers. At dinner with the family, work with your colleagues, and relax with your friends, engage in meaningful conversations about how to save lives and relieve suffering. Help share the facts, dispel fears, and develop understanding. Speak up like Brittany’s father.
Nursa and many other organizations are speaking up, contributing to raising minority organ donor awareness and honoring all donors.
Make a difference; become a donor. Register your commitment to save lives and relieve pain.