Nine Million Californians Say ‘Yes!’ to Organ & Tissue Donation; Celebrations to Occur Statewide During National Donate Life Month
More than 56,000 Lives Saved or Healed by Registry Donors in 2011
Sacramento, Calif., Apr. 5, 2012 – At the outset of National Donate Life Month, the California Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) and Donate Life California (DLC) announced today that more than nine million Californians have registered as organ and tissue donors through the state’s Donate Life California Organ & Tissue Donor Registry, the largest in the country. The continuing influx of new signups on the registry is due primarily to donation education and the convenience of signing up as donors at the DMV. As of July 1, 2011, it became mandatory for all Californians to check one of two boxes on their driver license or I.D. card renewal to indicate their commitment to donation.
“We each have the power to make a difference in the lives of fellow Californians by registering as organ and tissue donors online or through the DMV,” stated Lisa Stocks, president of Donate Life California, the non-profit organization created in 2004 to administer the state-authorized donor registry along with the state’s four organ recovery agencies. “Registering as a donor helps ensure that your wishes are followed after you’re gone. Being able to honor a loved one’s wishes is much easier for a family than trying to guess what someone would have wanted.”
Since the registry was introduced in April 2005, donors who had registered prior to death have saved or healed more than 100,000 lives through organ, eye and tissue donation. In the past year alone, one third of California organ and tissue donors were registered and saved or healed more than 56,000 people. In so doing, they give hope to the nearly 22,000 Californians who are waiting today for life-saving organ transplants.
According to DMV Director George Valverde, “We at the DMV are once again extremely proud to be part of this great effort to continue increasing the number of potential organ and tissue donors. Each milestone that is reached reminds us of the life-saving importance of our partnership with Donate Life California.”
The new registry milestone kicks off many celebrations throughout the state in honor of National Donate Life Month. Flag-raising events at area hospitals are starting this week. In the Bay Area, nearly 600 donor families will gather at the Alameda County Fairgrounds on April 14 where their loved ones’ gifts of life will be honored by the Donor Network West. This will be the first of three ceremonies occurring this spring to remember those who provided lifesaving and life-enhancing organs and tissues. In Los Angeles, OneLegacy is coordinating a special “Done Vida” event at the Mexican Consulate on April 20, while the largest Donate Life Run/Walk in the country returns for its 10th anniversary on April 28. In Sacramento, Sierra Donor Services and heart recipient Coralia Salazar will celebrate the one-year anniversary of her transplant at Sutter Memorial Hospital on April 9, while on April 25 the city of Truckee and its mayor will celebrate its high rate of donor designations (the highest in the state in the last quarter of 2011) with kidney recipient Valen Keefer, who is also one of the “12 Women of 2012” who are inspiring people across the U.S. to become organ and tissue donors.
The shortage of organs is not due simply to a lack of giving, but rather to the rarity with which the opportunity to donate organs presents itself. Less than one percent of deaths qualify for organ donation. That’s why every single opportunity to donate counts.
Two young men who had signed up on the registry became donors this year and saved many lives through their gifts. Sidney “Scott” Santana of Diamond Springs was only 17 when a head-on collision sent him to the hospital on May 17, 2011. His parents knew he would not survive.
“A few years prior, a good friend was in a car accident,” recalled his mother, Deanna Santana. “We had a big discussion as a family then, and we agreed that we all wanted to be organ donors. However, we didn’t remember this when we were at the hospital until Sierra Donor Services told us that Scott had already checked ‘Yes’ when he received his driver license. Knowing this gave us 100 percent confirmation that this is what he wanted, and it gave us the strength to get through the process.”
In Oakland, Charles Hiawatha Butler, Jr. was nearly 24 and on track to become a merchant marine when he was ruthlessly murdered on December 22, 2011. His older sister, Valerie Butler, said the family was unaware that Charles had registered to be an organ donor when he was 18. They were able to direct the donation of his liver to Daniel Murphy of Antioch, a family friend.
“I had told him you have to do something back – that you can’t take things for granted,” she said. Now he has given back the most precious gift of life. He was so selfless, and we’re so proud of him. I know wherever he is now, he’s looking down and saying, ‘Big Sis, I gave something back.’”
The Donate Life California Organ & Tissue Donor Registry is the nonprofit, state-authorized organ and tissue donor registry which records the decision to donate in a secure, confidential database that is searched by authorized organ and tissue recovery personnel at the time of an actual donation opportunity. It is administered by Donate Life California and California’s four nonprofit, federally designated organ recovery organizations: Donor Network West, Sierra Donor Services, Lifesharing and OneLegacy. As a state-authorized public service, the registry assures that all personal information is kept confidential and stored in a secure database, accessible only to authorized organ and tissue recovery personnel.