Telling stories to save lives

May. 03, 2014 @ 06:51 PM

Rob, Kim, Angeloe, Delores, Althea, Kaaren, Sean, Clay, Brian:  These names are just a few of those living in Durham whose lives have been transformed by someone who simply answered, “Yes” when they were asked if they wanted to register as an organ donor.  These neighbors of ours have led extraordinary lives both for what they have endured and survived -- and for how they are now living their lives in service to our community and their families.

We are starting to share Durham stories like theirs, in partnership with The Herald-Sun, to inspire Durham residents to register as donors.  In April we celebrated those whose lives have been saved and enhanced through organ, eye and tissue transplants, while honoring the legacy of those who saved lives through the gift of donation for National Donate Life Month.  While we focus in April particularly on sharing stories and facts to raise awareness about the importance of registering as a donor, together with The Herald-Sun, we will be sharing stories year-round.

The Durham area is blessed with nationally recognized transplant centers at both UNC Hospital and Duke University Medical Center, yet too many in our community have not registered as donors.  While nearly 4.5 million North Carolinians have registered through the DMV, representing just over half of all licensed drivers, only 44% of those that get their licenses at the Durham DMV East office on Miami Boulevard have registered and 48 percent of those going to the DMV South office on S. Roxboro/Martin Luther King Parkway have registered.  We know that the generous residents of Durham can do better!

Joining the NC Donor Registry means that you have made a legal decision to make some or all of your organs and tissue available for transplant at the time of your death.   For those 18 and older it is a decision, like your will or advanced health care directive, which cannot be overturned by others. 

It’s important to know that advances in medicine continue to allow more people to donate.  Organs and tissues are carefully screened prior to transplant, so anyone can join the registry — regardless of age, race, ethnicity, gender or medical history.  In addition to deceased donor transplants, patients may also receive organs from living donors. Living donation offers an alternative for individuals awaiting transplantation from a deceased donor.  If you are interested in being a living donor, you may contact the transplant center at Duke University Medical Center or UNC Healthcare.

If you’ve already registered with the DMV and have a heart on your license, thank you for fulfilling your legacy to save lives as a donor! Learn what else you can do to help at our website, DonateLifeNC.org. If you’re not registered yet, you can learn more about donation and then register online. New lives began for 28,951 people in 2013 thanks to organ transplants and to individuals like you who chose to register.  This year, it could be someone like you or a friend or family member whose life is enhanced.  Registering only takes a few minutes, is free to you and your family – and has the potential to save eight lives and improve the lives of up to 50 more.  What an extraordinary legacy you can leave!  Register today to join us in providing hope to the more than 121,000 people on the national transplant waiting list.

Sharon Hirsch is executive director of Donate Life North Carolina.