(WTVO) — August is “National Minority Donor Awareness Month,” and people of color make up a large portion of the waiting list.
In the U.S., 96% of people think that registering to become an organ donor is a good idea, yet only 60% of Americans are registered. It is especially important for minorities due to the mistreatment they can face.
“There was this misnomer that African Americans did not contribute or donate their organs to organ and tissue donation, even though they have the most need for organ and tissue donation,” said Marion Shuck, Vice President of Governmental Relations & External Affairs for ‘Gift of Hope’ Organ & Tissue Donor Network. “So, it’s a way to honor those families, those recipients, those people who are waiting to really tell the story of organ and tissue donation and how impactful it is for communities of color.”
Sixty percent of people who are waiting for organs are people of color. When it comes to kidney donation, there is a better chance to have a lack of rejection if it comes from someone within a person’s ethnicity group.
“Right now in Illinois, there’s a 5-7 year wait to get a kidney from a deceased donor, but a living donor, if everything goes well, everybody is a match, it could happen in three, six months tops,” Shuck said.
Living donation can be done with kidneys and the liver. Time is of the essence when it comes to a deceased donor. If not registered, it takes longer to have that conversation with next of kin, and it is during a stressful time when everything is a blur.
“Minorities, immigrants, communities of color, and have experienced mistreatment, and so, rightly so, they’re hesitant,” Shuck said. “But, with the advent of modern medicine, with the advent of education and outreach, we can help them understand the process of donation so they can understand how to advocate for themselves and how they can be a part of that.”
While it can be a difficult topic to talk about, discussing what a person wants is important.
“Make sure you have the conversation and you tell your loved ones what your wishes are, because sometimes people get into the hospital and they don’t know where your wishes are in,” Shuck said. “They have their own wishes and so it can get in the way, so you get and make sure that people know what your wishes are and how they can honor.”
More information on resources and how to register to be an organ donor can be found on Gift of Hope’s website.