April is Donate Life Month

When you think of organ donation, you may think of the types of donations that save lives; but, organ donation can also make a difference in the quality of someone’s life. A kidney transplant, for example, could mean a person no longer needs dialysis, a process that cleanses the blood and may be required three times each week.
“This is a gift of life,” said Jefferson County Tax Commissioner Nancy McGraw.
McGraw said she had attended the Georgia Association of Tax Commissioners annual conference where she met Cynthia Jenkins of LifeLink Foundation.
Jenkins was promoting an idea she had that would allow information about organ donation at county tax offices.
“I thought, ‘What a wonderful idea,’” McGraw said. “The community really needs to be educated on organ donation. First of all we want to get more people registered.”
Jenkins said she thought about the way most people register as organ donors by signing a line on their driver’s license. Then “organ donor” is listed on their license.
She said she realized she has to get her vehicle tag every birthday; so, it seemed a good idea for LifeLink to work with tag offices. 
“There are 122,000 people waiting for transplants in the United States, 6,000 of whom are in Georgia,” Jenkins said, adding that every 10 minutes, another name is added to the national list of people who need organs.
“You don’t have to be dead to be an organ donor,” she said and pointed out that not everyone who dies is eligible to be an organ donor.
Jefferson County is one of the first counties to get onboard with this program.
“Jefferson is at the top; and, I mean that,” Jenkins said.
“Let me speak to the black people in the room. There is a dire need for donors in that population,” she said.
The biggest need in Georgia is for kidneys from African Americans she said.
Now, individuals can register to be an organ donor in the Jefferson County Tax Commissioner’s office, McGraw said.
“If you’re going to be an organ donor, tell your family,” Jefferson County Coroner Edward James said. He said it is important to make sure your next of kin knows if you are an organ donor.
Jenkins said most organ donors want their tissues and organs to be used for Georgians and that is usually what happens.
Organs have to be moved very quickly, she said. Because of that, organs usually go to someone nearby. If a donor becomes available; and, no one in the state of Georgia needs that organ, there is a network so a recipient can be found.
One donor can potentially benefit 60 or more people. Organs and tissues that can be recovered and used in transplants include kidneys, liver, heart, pancreas, lungs, intestine, bone, skin, heart valves and corneas.
April is National Donate Life Month (NDLM) and was established in 2003 by Donate Life America and other organizations.
Activities throughout the month promote organ and tissue donation, encourage people to register as donors and celebrate those who have changed lives as well as saved lives through donations.
More information about LifeLink may be found online at lifelinkfoundation.org.
More information about NDLM may be found online at donatelife.net.