Each day, on average, 88 lives are saved by an organ transplant in the United States; but 22 people die each day waiting for a transplant that never comes, according to organdonor.gov. A new person is added to the wait list every 10 minutes. The need for organ transplants rapidly outpaces the rate of donor registrations. Many health organizations turn to college campuses for their outreach and awareness projects because college-aged students are generally the best organ donor candidates, so it’s up to us to take the simple steps that could save lives.
Gift of Life Marrow Registry (not to be confused with Gift of Life Michigan) has ambassadors at 85 campuses worldwide, including Grand Valley State University. This organization was founded in 1991 and strives to match blood cancer patients with healthy donors for transplants. As of now, there are less than 300,000 registered donors. Since 1991, more than 5 million children and adults have been diagnosed with some form of blood cancer, which includes Leukemia, Lymphoma and Myeloma. These can be cured though, if a patient is able to get healthy bone marrow in time.
5 million cases compared to 300,000 potential donors is outrageously skewed, and only people between the ages of 18 and 45 are eligible to register for Gift of Life Marrow Registry. That being said, it’s on college-aged individuals to promote awareness of this issue and put forth the effort to make a positive change. Unlike the select few blood types, there are millions of tissue types and many factors that have to match up for a good transplant, so getting more people to register is crucial. Additionally, because these tissue types are based on ethnic and genetic factors, African American and Hispanic people are less likely to find matches due to the lack of diversity in the registered population.
Initial registration is as simple as a cheek swab and providing contact information. Gift of Life will contact you from there if you could be a match. For most people who donate stem cells and bone marrow, the procedure is not much different from donating blood or plasma, it just takes longer. The next Gift of Life Marrow Registry at GVSU will be during the Dance-A-Thon on March 31 between 1-3 p.m. at Fieldhouse Arena.
Aside from just bone marrow donations, organ donations of any kind are always needed, too. According to Gift of Life Michigan, each organ donor could save up to 8 lives and improve the lives of nearly 75 people. As of January 2019, roughly 113,000 people in the United States are on the transplant wait list, and only 36,000 transplants occurred in 2018. It’s awesome that 36,000 were saved, but we can’t ignore how many more people are always waiting at any given time.
Organdonor.gov states that 95 percent of adults in the U.S. support organ donation, yet only 58 percent are registered as donors. Joining the Michigan Organ Donor Registry takes less than a minute at GiftofLifeMichigan.org and within a week or so, you’ll get a red heart sticker to put on your state ID. If you’re a GVSU student but not a Michigan resident, you can find the best way to register at organdonor.gov.
Five minutes of your time could save more lives than you know. Got a moment to spare?