(Good Things Utah) Last year, the United States surpassed 40,000 transplants from both living and deceased donors. This was a historic first and the 10th consecutive record-breaking year for organ donation, according to United Network for Organ Sharing (UNOS).

The Intermountain Healthcare Transplant Program also had record breaking year, surpassing 5,000 life-saving adult solid organ transplants, thanks to organ donors, their families, and a transplant team committed to saving lives.

April is National Donate Life Month, which brings attention to organ, eye and tissue donation and transplantation. It’s a good reminder to share with your family your decision to be a donor and consider the healing gift of sharing a living organ through the gift of transplantation.

Across the country, 106,000 people are currently on the transplant list, waiting for a kidney, liver, pancreas, heart or lungs. In Utah, there are 850 people on that waiting list.

Every nine minutes another person is added to the wait list.

Nearly 6,000 living donations take place each year. That’s about four out of every 10 donations. What organs can be donated while alive:

  • One of your kidneys.
  • Part of your liver – the remaining lob will regrow until your liver is almost its original size.
  • A lung or part of a lung, part of the pancreas, or part of the intestines. These organs don’t regrow.

Living Kidney Donation

Living kidney donations saves thousands a lives each year. Since the body can perform with just one kidney, it is the most commonly transplanted organ from a living donor. It’s also the best option for people who need a new kidney, it’s safe, and donors don’t have to be related to the recipient.

Other benefits for participating in a living donor transplant include:

  • Every living donor transplant that occurs removes one person from the transplant waiting list and ensures that the next person on the list won’t have to wait as long for a deceased donor transplant.
  • Living donor kidneys tend to have greater longevity than those transplanted from a deceased donor.
  • Surgery can be scheduled in advanced.
  • Patients can get a living donor kidney transplant before starting dialysis.
  • Patients spending less time on dialysis means better health.

“On average a living kidney transplant doubles the life expectancy of the recipient,” says Donald Morris, MD, nephrologist and Intermountain Healthcare’s kidney transplant medical director. “It also greatly improves the quality of life while decreasing their overall health costs.”

Second Chances

Jerold Wilcox knows first-hand how life changing a living organ donation can be, he calls it, “A second chance at life.”

Wilcox, who has had type 1 diabetes since he was a child, lost kidney function in his 50’s, but received a new kidney from a neighbor just a few doors down from him.

“She saved my life and we’re now connected at the hip. She’s family to me, I’ll never be able to re-pay her,” said Wilcox.

Now, as an Intermountain Healthcare transplant coordinator, Wilcox helps other transplant patients, like Steve and Diana Aldana adjust to life after transplantation.

Steve has a familial genetic renal disorder which has taken the lives of his father and grandfather. His wife, Diana just assumed she would be a good match and she was!

A recent study found, one in 25 donations are actually from spouses. The most important compatibility consideration is for ABO blood type.

“I’ve had five kids and two knee replacements – giving my husband a kidney was easy,” said Diana. “If I had another kidney I didn’t need, I’d do it again.”

Steve now thanks his wife every day for his new lease and life.

“If you become a living donor you are going to change a life and be a hero,” said Steve. “Diana is my hero.”

National Kidney Registry

Intermountain Healthcare Transplant Services at Intermountain Medical Center is the only transplant center in Utah to participate in a national registry that helps get the best optimally matched organ donors and recipients across the nation.

The National Kidney Registry (NKR) is a unique nationwide organ donor exchange program that facilitates paired exchanges, a process in which an organ donor donates their kidney to a recipient other than their loved one in exchange for a compatible kidney for their friend or loved one.

Donate a Kidney – Save a Life

To sign up to become a living donor go to: www.IntermountainHealthcare.org/DonateLife
And don’t forget to share with your family your decision to share the gift of life.

**This segment contains sponsored content