Written by David Shivers
Albany, Ga -An important, yet often misunderstood, category of life-saving procedures is organ transplants.
The donation of a kidney or other organs is a precious gift, but people are often reluctant to sign up, as are families after a loved one’s sudden death, so Carla Hawkins, education specialist for LifeLink of Georgia, sought to answer questions and clear up misconceptions in program for the Kiwanis Club of Dougherty County on April 22.
LifeLink is a nonprofit organization dedicated to recovering organs and tissue for life-enhancement and sustainment, as well as education about procedures and their importance. Currently there are nearly 4,000 people in Georgia awaiting an organ transplant.
In addition to her LifeLink responsibilities, Hawkins is also an accomplished singer and actress. She brought her creative talents to bear in an impassioned message of how she got involved in LifeLink – a friend recruited her – and what her service there has meant to her, relating stories about people and situations she has encountered. As “ 2010 Miss Black Georgia/USA” she made organ donation her platform as she traveled the state performing her pageant duties.
Procuring organs for donation is often a sensitive issue, especially for families who have lost a loved one in a sudden accident. LifeLink procurement representatives undergo extensive training in how to broach the issue while not being insensitive to the emotional trauma. It’s generally less difficult if the deceased has made decisions in advance about organ donation and informed their family of their wishes.
Hawkins said doctors don’t make organ donation decisions. LifeLink does background work to determine a donor’s suitability prior to contacting the family.
Organ donation, Hawkins stressed, “is about life and saving lives.”
Organ donation is an especially-vital issue for African Americans and other minorities. By the numbers:
- More than 50 percent of people on the waiting list for organ transplants are minority-group members.
- One in every three African Americans has high blood pressure, a leading cause of kidney failure.
- Nationally, 35 percent of patients on the kidney transplant list are African American. In Georgia the rate is nearly double at 66 percent.
- Minorities suffer higher rates of diseases that can lead to kidney failure. Native Americans have the highest rate of diabetes, for instance, followed by African Americans.
- Matching organs between members of the same ethnic group often improves chances of successful transplantation.
Anyone seeking information about organ donation or how to become a donor can go online at www.lifelinkfound.org.
Kidneys, said Hawkins, are the most-sought organ for donations, but others include the liver, pancreas, lungs, intestines, bone, skin, heart valves, and corneas. One donor can potentially benefit up to 60 or more people.