Here are some staggering statistics:
When Rob and I started our business in 2008, our goal (besides making rent), was to double our sales month after month. We had a good track record of doing that in the first 2 years- it’s really not that hard when you are working with really small numbers. That’s how I look at these numbers. It shouldn’t be that hard to dramatically improve these numbers!
There are 2 numbers in this table that I really think need improvement right away. There are less than 6,000 living donor kidney transplants each year, and of those transplant, less than 200 are non-directed kidney donors (what I am doing, not knowing the recipient beforehand).
What do we need to do to make living organ donation “normal” and desirable to people who want to make a difference in somebody’s life? How do we change the way people think and behave around this topic, so that there is no longer an “organ shortage,” and so people don’t die while the majority of us walk around with extra parts they need to live? I am CERTAIN that there are more than 6,000 people in this country who would step forward to help solve this problem if they knew more about the topic, and how simple the solution is.
There was a White House summit in May this year which brought together doctors, surgeons, researchers, non-profits, social media, and more into 1 room, where they discussed a variety of topics related to transplant. The full review delves deep into promises and initiates made surrounding the following topics:
- Reducing the organ wait list
- Research and development
- Closing the gap between who believes in organ donation and who IS an organ donor
- Increasing the number of transplants and improving transplant outcomes
- Patient support and increased access to organs
It was a big deal, and we have set the bar higher than ever as a country with these life-saving initiatives. It’s a good read because it really spells out where we are and where we are going in this country with organ donation practice and policy.
In my modest opinion, I think that they missed addressing donors’ rights, patient education, and maximizing transplant chains. I will touch on this briefly.
Donors’ Rights: People can’t afford to be a donor. They can’t afford to travel, they are afraid to get fired, they have to use their vacation time. They don’t have a place to stay near the hospital. Their families need to eat out and live in a hotel. It’s expensive, and uncomfortable without the right resources. We do not celebrate donors and do not protect them after they donate. How many more people would be willing to donate if their rights were protected, and they didn’t have to worry about loosing a job or money over it? What if we gave them incentives so that they benefited from donating?
Patient Education: You cannot always depend on a hospital to tell somebody in need of a transplant what their options are. A huge number of people we talk to don’t realize they can be dual listed (be on 2 transplant lists and have a better shot at getting an organ). They are not told about living donation and how to make “the ask” for one, so they never consider living donation as an option. Some hospitals will tell you to check into hospice rather than make you aware of transplant options.
Transplant Chains: Transplant chains start with a catalyst, and the nice thing about a chain is that it allows as many as 40 people to benefit from the right catalyst starting the chain. We could save more people if we broadened our pool of catalysts. What if deceased donors could start a chain? What if all hospitals abided to the same standards of sharing in effort to maximize a chain, thus saving more people?
It’s a step in the right direction for sure, and I am excited to see what happens. How will patient outcomes and transplant numbers be positively impacted this year and next year? I hope that we start peeling the layers off, and start talking about the issues that matter- the issues that are keeping our country from being the leaders in organ donation. We have a long journey ahead to be that country!
- Who Gives a Kidney to a Stranger? –Huff Post
- National Kidney Foundation Statistics
- Controversy with Living Donation
- Living Non-Directed Organ Donors
- It’s time to give organ donors the respect they deserve by Josh Morrison
- American Living Organ Donor Fund
- American Living Organ Donor FB support page