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Health, Science & Tech

Organ Donation Advocates Urge People To Sign Up As Donors

Deanna Garcia
90.5 WESA

There are approximately 8,500 people waiting for an organ transplant in Pennsylvania, and about 123,000 across the U.S. The problem, according to the UPMC transplant program, is that demand far outweighs the number of available organs.

To try and increase awareness, “crossing guards” from UPMC and the Center for Organ Recovery and Education (CORE) stopped pedestrians in several downtown areas Wednesday. The goal was to get more people to sign up as organ donors.

“One organ donor can save eight lives through organ transplantation and enhance the lives of 50 people who are waiting for a tissue transplant, so really that’s what we’re trying to put into perspective,” said Sean Naccarelli, a manager with UPMC’s transplant program.

Also on hand were people who have received donated organs. Karl Adrian has received two. About five years ago he got a new liver, then because of complications he needed another new liver about a year ago. He got it and is now doing well.

“The young lady that donated her liver to me, her mother must have raised her right — she cared about people," Adrian said. "She saved my life and I’m just humbled. I slap my knees every morning and thank God that I’m still here."

There are many reasons people don’t designate themselves as organ donors, including religious beliefs.

“But I think when I take my last breath, and I go where I believe I’m going, what am I going to do with them (organs)? And if I cared enough about people, which I do, why not help save somebody’s life?” asked Adrian.

Other reasons for not donating could be misinformation.

“There are a lot of myths out there that the doctors might not try as hard (to save your life) if someone is sick and waiting in the hospital,” said Naccarelli, “so I think they’re unsure and don’t have that knowledge and they haven’t really met with anyone who has received a transplant, so they don’t know firsthand how they can help people out.”

The idea of the crossing guards was to stop people in the morning, lunchtime and after work while they are getting coffee, lunch or going to their vehicle or public transportation. Naccarelli said stopping people and making them wait a little longer to get where they’re going is an inconvenience — and that’s the point — to put a small wait into perspective.

“Depending on the transplant that they get, you could wait two to three years on the waiting list while your disease just progresses and you get sicker and sicker before you get that call for an organ transplant,” he said, adding that every day about 21 people in the U.S. die while waiting for an organ transplant.

There are a couple of ways to become an organ donor: one is to register when you get or renew a driver’s license or ID at the DMV, the other is to register online.