SC campaigns to increase organ, tissue donations

COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) — South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley and several state organizations announced a campaign Wednesday to double the number of potential organ and tissue donors in the state and erase its 1,000-person waiting list for life-saving transplants.

“There is nothing better that we can do,” Haley said at the Statehouse in Columbia. “It’s one way we can step South Carolina forward.”

Haley said she is a donor and became aware of its importance when her husband’s relative needed a donation.

South Carolina ranks 45th in the nation with its donor designation rate of about 20 percent, said Department of Motor Vehicles Executive Director Kevin Shwedo, whose organization has signed up 98 percent of the 1.3 million people on the state’s donor list.

The campaign is being organized by the nonprofit registry group known as Donate Life South Carolina, the state Department of Motor Vehicles and LifePoint, an organ and donation services group.

Asked what prompted the effort, Shwedo quickly responded, “Embarrassment!”

The director said the national average is around a 40 percent rate.

“I have no doubt in my mind that in three to five years, we could double the number of donors,” Shwedo said.

Most donors agree to join when they come in to the DMV for their drivers’ licenses. The campaign has started with an education program for DMV employees so they understand why organ and tissue donations are important, and help them answer questions people may have, Shwedo said.

Every Friday, DMV employees will be sporting new blue polo shirts with a DMV logo on the front and a Donate Life logo on the arm to remind them of the campaign, he said.

Last year, about 100 people in the state donated more than 360 transplanted organs upon their death, according to figures provided by Donate Life South Carolina. There were 342 tissue donors and 428 eye donors, said the organization’s spokesman Mark Johnson.

Potential donors may indicate whether they would allow for the donation of several or one of their organs, as well as various tissues, so the donor numbers may overlap, he said.

For example, one person may save the lives of up to eight people with organ donations, and improve the lives of 50 or more with tissue donations.

About 90 percent of the people in South Carolina waiting for organs need a kidney, the group said.

Nationally, about 121,000 people are waiting on transplant lists. On average, about 19 people die each day waiting for a life-saving transplant.

Most needed are kidneys, livers, pancreases and hearts. Transplantable tissues include blood, blood vessels, bones, bone marrow, cartilage, connective tissues, eyes, heart valves and skin.

Shwedo said he knows two employees in the DMV who’ve been involved in organ donations, and he has become convinced the state can increase its numbers.

Potential donors have a red heart surrounded by a small circle on their driver’s licenses. If they care to make special directions in the Donate Life registry, they may do so on its website.


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