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Donation Heart Ribbon

Sharp Hospital Raises Awareness Of Need For Organ Donors

Evening Edition

Aired 4/2/14 on KPBS News.

April is national Donate Life Month, and Sharp Memorial Hospital in Kearney Mesa is raising awareness of the need for organ donors who can save lives.

Organ Donation Facts

• A single organ donor can save the lives of up to eight people.

• A tissue donor can improve the lives of up to 50 people.

• California has both the largest waiting list for organs and the largest donor registry in the country.

• Only 1 in 3 people in the state sign up to be donors.

Sharp Memorial Hospital in Kearny Mesa, along with dozens of transplant centers nationwide, will fly a “Donate Life” flag in April to raise awareness about organ donation.

The hospital, which has performed transplants for more than 25 years and was the first hospital in San Diego County to do a heart transplant, held a news conference Wednesday to promote that April is National Donate Life Month.

“At some point, we’ll be able to grow organs and grow skin and grow hearts but we can’t do that yet, so we are totally dependent on people donating organs and tissue,” said Dr. Barry Browne, a transplant surgeon at Sharp Memorial.

Troy Stork, who received a kidney transplant 14 years ago and is now signed up as a donor, was at the news conference as an example of why organ donation is important.

“Because people registered to donate organs, I’m alive today," Stork said. "And it’s really important for people to realize that at any point, anyone could find themselves in the same position as me.”

Robert Billings received a kidney from his brother a decade ago. He recently lost his wife, Jackie, to bacterial meningitis and had her organs donated.

“She was able to affect three people’s lives with four different organs,” Billings said.

Ninety-five percent of Californians who sign up as donors register when they get their driver's licenses from the Department of Motor Vehicles. In San Diego, nearly 2,000 people, including 41 children, are waiting for an organ transplant.

“I think history is going to look back and say what a crazy time we lived in, but this is what we have to do to keep people going,” Browne said.

In San Diego County last year, organ donors saved 324 lives, but 80 other people died waiting for a kidney, liver, heart or other transplant.

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