This April marks the 11th annual National Donate Life Month, a celebration commemorating those who have given the gift of life through organ, eye and tissue donation.
For those whose lives have been saved or healed by a transplant, National Donate Life Month provides a chance to share their stories to encourage more people to register as donors.
Mt. Juliet resident Diana Shuck knows all about second chances.
Eight years ago, she received a life-saving kidney transplant after spending four years on kidney dialysis while on the waiting list.
“She was lucky,” said Diana’s sister, Marilyn Shuck. “She did well on dialysis, but not everybody does…Kidney failure’s the end of the road, and the kidney transplant is the best chance for survival long term.”
A genetic kidney disease called polycystic kidney disease runs in her family. About 50 percent of all children born in affected families will inherent the disease, and the only treatment available is dialysis and kidney transplantation after patients reach kidney failure.
Diana’s second chance at life came after a man in Wisconsin died in a farming accident. Because he was an organ donor, Diana received one of his kidneys.
“I am so thankful for my second chance at life,” said Diana. “I am the first person in my family to receive a life-saving kidney transplant. I want others to receive the gift of life that I have been given. There is an opportunity here to save many lives.”
Diana will be available to answer questions about the organ donation at a Donate Life Tennessee event Saturday from 9 a.m. through noon at the Mt. Juliet Public Library.
This will be a drop-in event to publicize the critical need for organ donors in Tennessee.
“The transplant waiting list is made up of people of all ages,” said Sharon Pakis, manager, Public Education Relations, Tennessee Donor Services. “Likewise, it’s important to show that people of any age can make a powerful difference in someone’s life by being a donor. Donation saves and heals lives every day, but it can only happen when someone makes the important decision to register as an organ, eye and tissue donor. You can make that lifesaving difference by registering your decision.”
There are now 112 million registered donors in the United States, over 1.89 million from Tennessee.
In 2013, 421 Tennesseans gave the gift of life, saving 796 lives. Still, the number of people in need of transplants continues to outpace the supply of donated organs. More than 120,000 people in the US and over 2,600 in Tennesee are currently awaiting a transplant.
An average of 18 patients die every day because the organ they needed was not donated in time. The solution to this problem is to continue educating the public about the lifesaving effects of donation and transplantation.
Tennesseans can register to be an organ donor by simply checking “yes” when applying for or renewing their driver’s license. A small red heart is placed on the driver license. Residents can also sign up online by visiting donatelifetn.org.