Burlington, Vermont - November 25, 2010
It's a life changing surgery; an organ from one person to another-- it's the gift of life. More years, more memories, more time for those whose lives depend on the generosity of someone else. In some cases, the patient is lucky; a living donor matches and is ready, willing and able to give her kidney. But thousands of others don't have a living match. So they go on a waiting list, waiting for someone else whose life has ended.
"You're trying to prepare for life and you're trying to prepare for death at the same time," said Linda Menard of Essex Junction.
Menard has renal failure. She's been waiting for a kidney for two and half years. The average wait at Fletcher Allen Health Care is three years-- six to eight at many other transplant centers nationwide.
But now there's something new-- Vermont's first online organ donor registry. We are the last state in the nation to have one. It's called Donate Life Vermont.
Before, you noted your wishes on your driver's license, but that was a wish, not a legally binding method of donating your organs once you're gone. And driver's licenses rarely make it to the hospital during an unexpected tragedy.
"It's a difficult decision for the families to make," explained Darryl Arnold of the Center for Donation and Transplant. "They're in a position where you're having to make all kinds of decision that they never in a million years thought they were going to have to make. They're burdened with the tragedy of the unexpected loss of their loved one and now they're having to make this decision on top of it. So having a registry is really important; not only for the sake of the people on the waiting list who need these life saving transplants, but also for having your wishes made known and also for the sake of your family because it's relieving the burden of the decision on them.
There are 200 people on Vermont's waiting list right now, waiting for hearts, lungs, livers, kidneys and other organs. The number tops 109,000 nationwide -- with 18 dying every day while waiting. But transplant specialists hope that's about to change with Vermont's new registry.
"Every donor has the potential to impact multiple recipients, so every single organ donor can save or extend five plus lives," said Dr. Antonio Di Carlo of Fletcher Allen Health Care. "So the impact of increasing or doubling, which I think this is likely to do, it would be nice if we could triple, but just doubling the amount of organs that become available certainly doubles the amount of lives we impact on. So this is a very important step."
Bill Gormley knows just how important. A diabetic most of his life, he received a new kidney three years ago.
"I have four kids and a wife," he said. "They gave them a gift, too."
And Linda Menard is optimistic hers will come, as well.
"I hope I will find a donor," she said. "I think one will come when it's ready for me. And when it's my turn then someone will be there for me."
More than 400 people have signed on to Vermont's new registry already. They're hoping for more. It will mean more lives; more donors leaving a legacy of life once they're gone.
It should be noted that the organ donor registry allows a person to specify which organs or tissue they'd like to donate. And it's easy to take your name off the list if you change your mind.
Also, as a thank you, some area businesses are offering Black Friday and Cyber Monday discounts for those who sign up. It's called Thanks-4-giving.
Bridget Barry Caswell - WCAX News
PO Box 4508