Nearly 900 Oklahomans are currently on a waiting list for an organ transplant and thousands more are in need of tissue or cornea transplants. The waiting list far exceeds the number of organs available. Part of the problem is education – many Oklahomans do not understand the need for donation and how it can save lives and improve the quality of life for so many. April is “National Donate Life” month – a time for Oklahomans to consider the life-saving or life-enhancing act of being an organ, eye or tissue donor.
In 2000, the Oklahoma Legislature created the Oklahoma Organ Donor Education and Awareness Program, which established a special fund to support activities that promote and encourage organ, eye and tissue donor education and awareness. Oklahomans can donate to the fund through their local tag agent’s office at the time they receive a driver’s license or state ID card, register to be an organ donor, complete a title transaction, or purchase a license plate. The law requires that tag agents and Department of Public Safety employees who issue licenses must ask each applicant if they would like to donate to the fund – and just as importantly – if they would like to be an organ, eye or tissue donor.
“In 2010, LifeShare Transplant Donor Services of Oklahoma reported 134 organ donors and 412 tissue donors for the year,” said Elmer Maddux, chair, Oklahoma Organ Donor Education and Awareness Program Advisory Council. “And last year the Oklahoma Lions Eye Bank recovered 342 corneas for transplant and research. We believe these donations were due in part to the educational efforts supported by the fund to promote organ, eye and tissue donation.”
Maddux, a heart transplant recipient, noted, “My life has been extended and I’ve been able to enjoy many more years with my family due to the generous gift of an organ donation.”
Oklahomans can register as an organ, eye or tissue donor at their local tag agent or online at www.lifeshareoklahoma.org/registry/.