A noble act: Giving the gift of life

It’s amazing the medical advances we see occurring right before our eyes. Diseases are being cured that would have meant certain death a decade ago, but there is one medical advance that has been around for a while that is ignored in many communities: Organ, tissue and eye transplantation. Unfortunately, demand far outpaces supply. It is difficult to think of one’s own death. However, death is something we can’t avoid. Organ, tissue and eye donation is one way to extend life, maybe not for you, but for someone else. Living donors can give a kidney or a portion of the liver (believe it or not, the liver is the only organ that grows back), lung, pancreas or intestine.

Across the nation more than 100,000 people are waiting for some type of life-giving organ, but according to Donate Life America, in 2005 less than 30,000 organ transplants were performed. It’s not that people aren’t aware. In surveys more than 90 percent say they know about organ donation, however, only 30 percent know the steps to become a donor.

This issue is particularly acute in the African American community. In Georgia the transplant waiting list has 2,630 names. African Americans comprise 1,525 names on the list. However, organ and tissue donation in the African American community lags. Since 1988 there have been just 880 deceased African American donors, according to the Organ Procurement and Transplantation Network. In the same time period, only 479 living donors have stepped forward. Sixty-three percent of the people in Georgia waiting for a kidney are African American.

Certainly medical advancement has come a long way in fighting organ rejection in transplant procedures. Still, the closer a donor matches the recipient, the better the outcome. Having a larger pool of donors makes better matches possible.

The Links, Inc., a community service organization, has taken on an awareness campaign to make people more aware of organ, tissue and eye donation. The Macon Chapter, along with LifeLink of Georgia, has taken on the challenge of spreading the message. A luncheon is being held today at the Centreplex to start a community dialogue around the issue. Bobby Howard, manager of the multicultural donation education program at LifeLink of Georgia, will be the featured speaker. For more information about today’s program or about organ, tissue and eye donation, call Carol Freeman at LifeLink at 800-544-6667 or via e-mail at: carol.freeman@lifelinkfound.org.

— Charles E. Richardson/

for the Editorial Board