August 1, 2013
Minorities Account for Two-Thirds of Candidates on Organ Transplant Waiting List in Southland, New Data Shows
As the nation starts observing National Minority Donor Awareness Week, OneLegacy, the non-profit, federally designated organ, eye and tissue recovery organization serving the seven-county greater Los Angeles area, announced today the launch of its multicultural radio campaign to inspire and educate residents throughout the greater Los Angeles area to register as organ, eye and tissue donors.
released data that reveals the continuing challenges for those needing transplanted organs in multicultural communities. Of the more than 7,900 people listed on the UNOS waiting list for a transplant in the greater Los Angeles area, more than three-quarters are Latino, African American or Asian/Pacific Islander, showing the disproportionate need in these communities.
Half of transplant candidates in the Southland are Latinos (3,888), followed by Whites (1,835), Asians/Pacific Islanders (1,139) and African Americans (1,021). All minorities have a greater percentage of candidates than their share of the general population. While the need for transplants is great among ethnic groups, minorities make substantial contributions toward meeting the need as donors. Latinos account for almost half of organ donors in the area, while all people of color account for 64 percent of deceased donors and transplant recipients.
Latino, African American and Asian communities benefit directly from the generosity of donors, with people of color accounting for almost 80 percent of kidney recipients in the Southland. In 2012, 430 Latinos, 115 African Americans, and 114 Asians/Pacific Islanders received kidney transplants in the greater Los Angeles area. However, nine of 10 kidney transplant candidates did not receive a transplant.
The shortage of organs is largely due to the fact that only five in 1,000 deaths – only 600 per year in the Southland – are under circumstances where the individual is medically eligible to donate organs. Thus, even with more than ten million Californians registered as donors, the need for people to sign up as donors – especially minorities, who are significantly less likely to register than Whites – is urgent.
Among those in the Southland who have stepped forward to urge their communities to register as donors are three of OneLegacy's volunteer Donate Life Ambassadors: Norma Araos, who is on the waiting list for a kidney; Vincent Atkins, whose beloved son became a donor following a car accident; and Jason Dang, who received a heart transplant last year.
Norma Araos, a native of Coahuila, Mexico, has been in kidney failure and on the waiting list for the past seven years. "At first I was full of self-pity, but I have come to accept my circumstances," said Norma. "And now, as strange as it may seem, I consider my illness a blessing in many ways. It has taught me compassion and given me an appreciation for life and nature. But most of all, it has introduced me to the OneLegacy and Donate Life California organizations, and through them I have found my life's mission."
Norma now volunteers as a Donate Life Ambassador to inform and educate people about the importance of organ donation. "I have become very aware of the need for donors," said Norma. "I have seen infants on dialysis, children who need corneas and hearts, burn victims in need of tissue, and many others in need. Each day people waiting for transplants die. So I spread the message, 'Become a donor and give someone a chance at life.'"
Vince Atkins is the father of Holland Elijah Atkins, who was 19 when he died from injuries suffered in a car accident on Dec. 15, 2008. The family of the aspiring rapper and actor made the decision to donate his organs after hearing how he could possibly save eight lives. Holland's donation of his heart, liver and two kidneys helped to save four people. Vince has since met Holland's liver recipient. "He is extremely grateful for this gift," he noted. "We are like family now."
Vince explained that he had signed up on the Donate Life California Organ & Tissue Donor Registry prior to Holland's death. "I knew that Holland wanted to be donor but never got around to signing up for that pink dot," said Vince. "I was glad that something good came out of something so bad."
Vince, a retired correctional officer, is now a Donate Life Ambassador, speaking to various groups in the San Bernardino area. "I have found that there are so many myths and misconceptions about organ donation in the African American community," said Vincent. "My talks help to educate and dispel these ideas. It's kind of shocking that we represent a majority of people on the organ registry waiting list, but donate so little. Because I talk from experience, I usually grab the attention of my audiences."
Jason Dang, 32, of Van Nuys, is one of three members of his family to suffer from genetic heart disease. Diagnosed when he was teenager, he was determined to earn a degree in computer engineering. "My objective all along was to be able to innovate and design more advanced pacemakers and ICDs (implantable cardioverter defibrillator) so that others like me could benefit from them," said Jason. Unfortunately, his cardiac device couldn't cure his dying heart, but fortunately he received a donated heart in July 2012.
At the time of his transplant, his sister, who had been suffering from class IV biventricular heart failure, could barely walk; six weeks later, she too had a heart transplant. They both recovered remarkably well. Unfortunately, Jason's brother wasn't as lucky. He passed away a few years ago after suffering for ten years from paralysis due to sudden cardiac arrest.
"His death reminds us every day how truly blessed we are to be given this second chance at life," said Jason. "My goal was to participate in the Donate Life 5K Run/Walk, which I did in April 2013. It might not be much, but for a guy who hasn't run for the past 13 years, it's a journey of a lifetime. It's a miracle."
Tragically, one-third of those currently waiting for life-saving organ transplants could die due to a shortage of donated organs. Californians can change that by checking "Yes!" when they apply for, or renew, a drivers license or I.D. card, or by signing up online at www.donateLIFEcalifornia.org or in Spanish at www.doneVIDAcalifornia.org.
OneLegacy is the non-profit organization dedicated to saving lives through organ, eye and tissue donation in the seven-county greater Los Angeles area. With more than 200 hospitals, 11 transplant centers and a diverse population of 19 million, OneLegacy is the largest organ, eye and tissue recovery organization in the world. For more information, call OneLegacy at (800) 786-4077 or visit www.onelegacy.org.