SOS White Seeks Organ Donors In Minority Communities
Illinois Secretary of State Jesse White says too few people of color are registered to be organ donors. And he's trying to dispel some of the myths to help explain why those numbers are what they are. White came to Urbana Tuesday to mark National Minority Donor Awareness Week, which was August 1-7.
White says minorities make up 57-percent of those on the national waiting list for orgran transplants, yet they accounted for just 36-percent of donors.
He addressed the issue at Urbana's Carle Foundation Hospital Tuesday, hearing from people like Jim McFarlin of Champaign.
Diagnosed with stage four kidney disease eight years ago, he had little time to live. But McFarlin became a transplant recipient when a 6-year old girl died of an aneurism. He says he’s never met the child's parents, but thanks them every day.
McFarlin, who’s African-American, says he learned something by meeting others with the same condition he had.
“Most of the people in every dialysis clinic I went to looked a lot like me," he said. "There are a whole lot of African-Americans on dialysis. Heart disease, high blood pressure, diabetes, which is an epidemic our community. Knowing what I know, knowing how many African-American are in need of organ transplants, why don't we donate more?"
McFarlin says there’s a greater success rate with transplant recipients if they’re matched up with someone of their ethnic group. Minorities are also disproportionately affected by illnesses like hypertension and diabetes.
White says last year, 1,887 African-Americans in the state were on a waiting list for organs, but just 138 became donors. The numbers were similar for Hispanic Americans (913 on waiting list, 97 donors) and Asian Americans (225 on the waiting list, only 11 donors.) The numbers were provided by the United Network for Organ Sharing.
White says there are a number of reasons some give for not joining the donor registry.
"They’ll say, because of religious reasons, I choose not to participate," he said. "That too is a myth. Or they may say, when I die, I may not look good in my going away. Morticians have it down to a science, they know how you look presentable in your going away, and we just hope that you would not buy into the myths.”
In Illinois, more than 6-million people are registered to be organ and tissue donors, yet about 5,000 are waiting for transplants.
Carle Hospital recently hosted two donor registration drives.