African-American Organ and Tissue Donors Changing History

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As the accomplishments and sacrifices of African Americans in Pennsylvania are celebrated during Black History Month, more than 2,550 individuals from the African-American community in need of organ or tissue transplantation face an uncertain future.

A shortage of organ and tissue donors means nearly 60 percent of those needing a transplant will wait for more than a year. Many can expect to wait for more than five years. Waiting for matched organs may mean a recipient will be sicker at the time of transplant or, worse, die waiting.

African Americans in Pennsylvania can change the course of history by becoming organ and tissue donors. One organ and tissue donor can give more than 50 people a second chance at life.

“There is a critical need for registered donors from the African-American community in Pennsylvania,” says Janice P. Kopelman, Deputy Secretary of Health Promotion and Disease Prevention for the Pennsylvania Department of Health. “People of color suffer disproportionately from health conditions such as heart disease, hypertension and kidney failure. For many, a transplant is a viable medical option.”

While African Americans make up 11 percent of the state’s overall population, they represent 32 percent of Pennsylvanians waiting for organ or tissue transplants. The majority, more than 2,200 African Americans, are waiting for kidney transplants.

Organ and tissue donation is an extraordinary way to impact the lives of others, but many myths and misconceptions can interfere with the decision to sign up to become an organ donor. Organ donation is available to people of all ages and at no cost to their family. The process does not interfere with traditional funeral arrangements and is supported by all major religions. Organ donation takes place only after all efforts to save a life have been exhausted. In addition, organs are matched by factors such as blood and tissue types, organ size, medical urgency, waiting time and geographic location without consideration of wealth or social status.

Becoming an organ and tissue donor is as simple as adding the donor designation to your driver’s license, learner’s permit or state identification card. Sign up at your local Department of Motor Vehicles or by visiting www.donatelife-pa.org because Life Begins with You.

blacks are organ donors

While it is important for everyone to sign up to become an organ and tissue donor, Black History Month and National Donor Day on February 14th represent key opportunities to raise awareness about the importance of becoming designated as organ and tissue donors within the African American community.

The course of history can be changed by increasing the number of people who receive life saving transplants each year. In fact, one organ and tissue donor can give more than 50 people a second chance at life!

SOURCE: PR Newswire (c) 2010