One organ donor can save up to eight lives.
According to the Health Resources and Services Administration’s website, organdonor.gov, as of February 2021, 107,000 individuals are on the national transplant waiting list.
In Kentucky, 345 individuals received lifesaving organs in 2020, and 943 remain on the waiting list to receive organs, said the Executive Director of Trust for Life, Shelley Snyder.
Although there are over 2 million donors registered in Kentucky alone, according to the Donate Life Kentucky website, only 3 in 1,000 people die in a way that allows for organ donation.
To become a donor, the person has to die in a specific way which would allow the organs to be viable. According to the Health Resources and Services Administration’s website, donors usually die as the result of illness or accident that leads to brain death.
Donors can save up to eight lives by donating their heart, two lungs, liver, pancreas, two kidneys and intestines.
Because only a few people are able to donate organs, more individuals are needed for the over 100,000 people waiting for transplants nationwide.
According to the Donate Life Kentucky website, Laurel County has approximately 40 to 50 percent of its residents registered as organ donors. Knox and Bell counties both had approximately 30 to 40 percent of their residents registered as organ donors as of 2018.
As for Whitley County, 13,932 residents have registered to be organ donors, said Snyder. In 2018, approximately 40 to 50 percent of the residents were registered as organ donors according to the Donate Life Kentucky website.
Whitley County Circuit Clerk Gary Barton said, “Our percentages are way, way up from what they used to be in terms of people who have signed up when they renewed their license to be organ donors.”
“Years ago, the clerk’s association went into partnership and set up a group called Trust for Life. Trust for Life through the clerks set up to where people could donate a dollar or more every time they renewed their license,” said Barton. “That money was used for organ donation promotion to get people to sign up for organ donation when they renewed their driver’s license.”
Barton said the process for registering has changed slightly since Trust for Life began. Today, instead of signing the back of their license, an individual wishing to register as an organ donor simply tells the clerk when they renew their license and the clerk marks it on the person’s license and enters the data into an electronic system.
“Now, once they renew their license it goes into the computer and if, at some point in time, that person can become an organ donor, it flags it in the system showing that they are registered to be an organ donor,” said Barton.
A new name gets added to the waitlist every 10 minutes, said Snyder.
Approximately 22 people die each day waiting for a transplant, but because of registered donors, the number of organs donated in 2020 increased by 30 percent compared to 2019, said Snyder.
That increase comes after a 30 percent increase in donations in 2019 over 2018.
To become an organ donor, individuals can register through their clerk’s office when renewing their driver’s license or visit registermeky.org.