On the evening of August 4, 2014, I received a call from a good friend of mine. She called to inform me that her mother was at University Hospital in San Antonio waiting for her liver transplant. I couldn’t believe the excitement and joy I felt for my friend and her mother; they had a liver donor!
I have been involved with the transplant community as a donor mom for over 13 years now. I have had the opportunity to meet so many recipients, and their recoveries are unbelievable. To know my friend’s mom was going to receive her miracle that evening was truly a gift.
Her mother had been on the waiting list for over 2 years, and my friend was a match and was ready to become her liver donor. In response to the shortage of organs for transplantation, relatives, loved ones, friends and even individuals with no prior relationship are serving as living donors for the growing number of people on the national organ transplant waiting list.
It has now been over 21 days, and I had the opportunity to visit my friend’s mom several times since her transplant operation, and she is recovering quickly and is ready to go home.
There are over 123,404 people that are on the waiting list for an organ. Each day waiting, 18 people will die, but 1 organ donor can save up to 8 lives. What makes organ donation and transplantation beautiful is that donation is color blind. There are so many myths and misconceptions about organ donation, that Latinos must be informed. On March 28, 2011, Jim Forsyth of Reuters News interviewed me about the cultural divide between Latinos and organ donation. In order to save lives through transplantations, we must have donors. As difficult as a death of a loved one can be, we can give someone else the opportunity to live. Some of the most common myths are:
- If emergency room doctors know you’re an organ donor, they won’t work as hard to save you. Fact: Their number one priority is to save your life. Organ donation can only be considered after a physician has declared brain death.
- Only hearts, livers, and kidneys can be transplanted. Fact: Needed organs include the heart, kidneys, pancreas, lungs, liver and intestines. Tissues that can be donated include the eyes, skin, bone, heart valve and tendons.
- You are too old to be a donor. Fact: People of all ages and medical histories may consider themselves potential donors. Your medical condition at the time of death will determine what organs and tissues can be donated.
- Your religion prohibits organ donation. Fact: All major organized religions, including Catholics & Christians, approve of organ donation and consider it an act of charity.
In 2013, about 14% of all those who received transplants were Hispanic/Latino. 66% of Latino transplant recipients received kidneys, 23% of Latino transplant recipients received livers, and 13% of all deceased donors were Hispanic/Latino. There are 22,000 Latinos waiting for an organ transplant. Latinos in the United States have a high rate of diabetes and heart disease. Mexican-Americans in particular disproportionately suffer from obesity, which contributes to diabetes, hypertension, and heart disease, increasing the risk of organ failures. Here in Texas, the valley and border cities have a higher rate of renal failure. We must continue to provide education and awareness to our community. By educating them about organ donation, we promote a healthier lifestyle.
Because transplantation depends on the generosity of organ donors and their families, the United Network for Organ Sharing (UNOS) pays tribute to them and their families. You can learn more about the National Donor Memorial at www.donormemorial.org.
August is National Minority Donor Awareness Month! Register to be an organ & tissue donor today at www.Donatelifetexas.org. We don’t only save one life, we save an entire generation.
Norma Garcia is a Staff Writer at Latino Giant. Norma was born and raised in San Antonio, TX, where she has served as a real estate agent for over 14 years. She has an impressive record of volunteering and giving back to her community, beginning at the age of 18 years old when she would go to Laredo, MX to help do missionary work at a small Christian church. She is the author of “My Dear Jasmine: From Tragedy to Triumph” published in 2008.