Hundreds of Nevadans waiting for a life-saving organ donation
If you look at your driver’s license, you might see a small red heart next to your picture. That means you’re one of about 1.5 million Nevadans who’ve registered to donate an organ, many times life-saving, to another person.
As we enter April, National Donate Life Month, the Nevada Donor Network says about 600 people are waiting for a heart, kidney, liver or lungs to save their lives.
Nationally, there are 100,000 Americans waiting for an organ transplant. About 90,000 of those are waiting for a kidney.
Many diseases that go undiagnosed can lead to kidney failure, said Christina Hernandez with the Nevada Donor Network.
She said they currently focus on kidney transplants at University Medical Center in Las Vegas, but they hope to have more offerings when it comes to transplants and care for other organs.
“There are Nevadans that do need to leave our state to wait on those organs. And yes, if there is not a match that is found locally here in Nevada, sometimes an organ will come from outside of Nevada,” she said.
Nevada Donor Network has first responder partners through the state. That person will call the network when a patient’s death is imminent.
“We work alongside their families to ensure that they have the care that they need to go through not only the process of donation, but also the grief and the place that they're at in their lives, which quite honestly can be the worst times of their life, losing their loved one,” she said.
The conversation only begins if every option to keep the patient alive has been exhausted.
According to Hernandez, when a Nevadan chooses to be an organ, eye and tissue donor – the selection on your driver’s license represented by a small, red heart – up to eight lives can be saved through organ donation.
There are never any costs associated with donation, and receiving a donation is covered under insurance.
Hernandez said the donor will also “enhance the lives of 75 or more through tissue donation.”
“In the same way that organ donation is lifesaving in some ways tissue can also give that lifesaving gift,” she said.
Donors can also be living, she said. Some donate partial kidneys or liver. You need one kidney to survive, Hernandez said, and livers regenerate to its full size again eventually.
“Truly the gift is in saying yes,” she said.
Lee Murray’s 13-year-old son Alec, died by suicide in 2016. He was a jokester, loved animals and was a trusted friend, his father said.
“It just felt like the right thing to do at the time,” he said about the organ donation. “It's neat to think that there's pieces of somebody you love out there in the world who hopefully have a better quality of life. It is truly the last opportunity to give.”
About 62% of Nevadans are registered organ donors through the DMV. You can also register online at registerme.org.
Christina Hernandez, communications and engagement liason, Nevada Donor Network; Lee Murray, father of tissue donor Alec Murray