Christie Administration Recognizes National Donor Day
Valentine's Day is more than chocolates and roses. February 14 is also National Donor Day, and the New Jersey Department of Health is joining with the New Jersey Motor Vehicles Commission (MVC) to recognize those throughout the state who have helped save people's lives by donating organs, tissue, bone marrow or blood; and to encourage others to sign up to become a donor.
"Giving the gift of life by becoming an organ donor is a way to extend the special kindness of Valentine's Day to others who need life-saving transplants," said Health Commissioner Mary E. O'Dowd. "One donor can save up to eight lives and restore health to 50 others."
The Motor Vehicle Commission, which accounts for the majority of donor registrations in New Jersey, has worked closely with the state's organ procurement organizations to boost awareness and donor rolls. In 2012, registrations at the MVC agencies grew by nearly 14 percent statewide with agencies in Newark, Lodi and Bayonne leading the group with increases more than 31% each.
"Our work is far from over," said MVC Chairman and Chief Administrator Raymond P. Martinez, who will once again make it his personal mission during Donate Life Month in April to promote organ donation. "At the end of the day, our employees are the frontline ambassadors for organ and tissue donation in New Jersey and we continue to take that responsibility very seriously."
New Jersey's MVC is the gateway for tens of thousands of drivers to make the decision to save lives by simply checking a box or speaking to an MVC clerk.
According to the Organ Procurement and Transplantation Network (OPTN), more than 121,000 people nationwide are currently on the organ transplant wait list, including approximately 3,200 New Jersey residents. The United Network for Organ Sharing (UNOS) estimates that one new name is added to this list every 10 minutes and 18 people die each day waiting on this list.
In 2013, approximately 26,500 people received organ transplants in the U.S., the majority of which were kidney transplants. Other life-saving organs include heart, liver, lung, pancreas and intestine.
In New Jersey, 519 life-saving transplants were performed in 2013. However, the number of New Jerseyans currently on the wait list for organ donation include: 22 people for heart transplant; 2,913 people for kidneys; 39 for kidney/pancreas transplant; 215 for liver transplant; 2 for lungs; and 23 for pancreas transplant.
Blood and bone marrow are among the tissue donations in constant demand. Blood is needed for surgeries and patients with injuries and illnesses. Bone marrow is used for treating cancers, sickle cell anemia and other immune system and genetic disorders. Other life-saving tissue donations include skin, heart valves, bone, ligaments, veins and arteries.
The need for organ and tissue donations and the shortage of donors affects people of all ethnic groups. This need is greatest among African Americans and Hispanics who have disproportionately high rates of hypertension, diabetes and obesity - diseases which more often require organ transplants.
New Jersey needs blood donations from all ethnic and racial groups. Some blood types, such as B positive, are more prevalent among certain groups, and these are often in short supply. Some African Americans have rare blood types like U negative or Duffy negative, which are rare in other ethnic groups.
The MVC offers three ways to become an organ and tissue donor in New Jersey: People can add their name to the donor registry during a driver's license or I.D. transaction, register online at www.njmvc.gov or request a paper registration at (800) 742-7365.
Organ donation organizations such as the NJ Sharing Network and Donate Life NJ/Gift of Life Donor Program provide information on becoming an organ and tissue donor.
People interested in bone marrow and blood stem cell donation can register through the Be The Match Registry at www.marrow.org. To become a blood donor visit www.njsave3lives.com for a calendar of public blood drives and a contact list of local blood centers.