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Stories from National Donate Life Month

Established in 2003, NDLM raises awareness about organ donation and encourages all Americans to register as organ, eye, and tissue donors.

Organ donation saves lives. In 2021, more than 41,000 organ transplants from 20,300 donors brought a second chance at life to patients and their families. More than 2.5 million tissue transplants are performed each year. And a single tissue donor can help more than 75 people.

Read on to learn more about organ donation and its life-saving impact, as well as stories from Everside’s own about the power of donation to give those in need a second chance. To register today, visit RegisterMe.org.

Why should I register to be a donor?

You can save up to 8 lives through organ donation and heal the lives of more than 75 people through tissue donation. There is no cost to your family or estate for donation.

Who can be a donor?

People of all ages and medical histories should consider registering as a donor. In fact, more than one-third of all donations come from those 50 or older.

Does registering change my own patient care?

No. Your life always comes first, which means doctors will do everything in their power to keep you alive in a life-threatening situation. The only time donation is considered is when all options have been exhausted and a patient is already deceased.

What does it mean to be a living donor?

Not all donations occur after death. Kidney, partial liver, bone marrow, and certain tissue donations save lives every day and do not affect the donor’s quality of life.

More than 100,000 people are currently waiting for life-saving organ transplants. Another person is added every nine minutes, and 60% of patients waiting belong to minority communities. Registering as an organ donor creates a second chance at life for those with genetic or otherwise fatal diseases.

Stories from Everside

Regional Medical Director Dr. MaryJean Vorwald has worked with both living donors and donor recipients in her time as a physician. But her donation story comes from a familial perspective.

Her husband’s brother–a sheriff’s deputy–tragically lost his life in a car crash. As he was an organ donor, his heart, kidneys, and bone were donated to those on the national donation registry list.

More than 100,000 people are currently waiting for lifesaving organ transplants. 60% of patients waiting belong to minority communities.

“[My husband’s brother] had always been interested in being an organ donor,” Dr. Vorwald explains. “My husband, at that time, was a practicing paramedic. So they had had conversations as a family about organ donation and what it means.”

Some organ donation governing bodies will forward communications to and from the family of a donor and the donor recipients. “My in-laws wrote letters to the heart recipient and the kidney recipient,” she explains. “They said, “We feel blessed that we helped you. That we made a difference in your life.””

“What struck me was how much it means to the families,” she says. “I can’t tell you how many times I’ve talked to families who’ve agreed to donation, and almost universally they say, “We’re so glad we did that. That gave something so much more positive out of what was an awful situation.””

“My in-laws wrote letters to the [recipients]. They said, “We feel blessed that we helped you. That we made a difference in your life.””

As a physician, Dr. Vorwald explains the conversations she’s had with patients about signing up to be a donor. “Organs, for the most part, go to recipients that have a very strong chance of survival if they get them. I try to emphasize, [recipients] are often young people, people with diabetes or maybe a heart issue due to a virus or illness, that are otherwise very healthy.”

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Regional Medical Director Dr. Meaghann Bernardy shares the story of an Everside patient who was diagnosed with leukemia after routine blood work during a health center exam. After being referred to a specialist, the patient received a bone marrow biopsy and received chemotherapy before being placed on the transplant list. Unfortunately, a local donor couldn’t be found in North Carolina.

“Our focus on outreach and closing gaps in care made this patient’s journey from diagnosis to treatment possible.”

Three months later, the patient unexpectedly found a donor through the Blood Marrow Match Program, in Atlanta, GA. While he remained in Atlanta for post-transplant treatment, his Everside provider continued to support him virtually and serve as a resource until he made it back to North Carolina.

“This case truly highlights the strengths of Everside Health’s care model,” notes Dr. Bernardy. “Our focus on outreach and closing gaps in care made this patient’s journey from diagnosis to treatment possible.”

She adds, “I would encourage anyone interested in becoming a bone marrow donor to go to BeTheMatch.org and get started today.”

Begin the Talk Today

If you’re interested in becoming a donor, talk with your loved ones today about what it means to you and the life-saving impact it can have on dozens of lives. Your family will need to “sign off” on your donation even if you’re a registered donor. It’s important to have these conversations so that your family can understand what it means to be a donor and the lives that can be saved.

Visit RegisterMe.org or BeTheMatch.org and share this article with loved ones in honor of April’s National Donate Life Month.