Become an organ donor and a potential life saver

April is National Donate Life Month, established in 2003 to bring attention to the critical shortage of organs and tissue for patients through various activities and events, and encourage individuals to become organ/tissue donors. Ceremonies are held to honor those who have donated and saved lives, to mourn those who have died while waiting for a transplant, to provide support for patients whose lives depend on finding a donor, and to celebrate the lives saved and improved due to donation.

According to the Health Resources and Services Administration, across the country more than 100,000 men, women and children are currently in need of a lifesaving transplant. Another person is added to the waiting list every 10 minutes, and 17 succumb to their health conditions each day because the organ they need is not donated in time.

About 4,000 Illinoisans are waiting for an organ transplant, as reported on Even though there are 7.1 million people registered to become organ/tissue donors across the state, about 300 Illinoisans die each year waiting for a transplant.

Here are some facts about organ donation from the Gift of Hope organization at

• One individual can save up to eight lives as an organ donor, heal more than 25 people in need of skin grafts, bone or tendon grafts or other donated tissue, and help restore sight for two people.

• The major organs that can be donated for transplant are the liver, heart, lungs, kidneys, pancreas, and small intestine. Tissues that can be donated include the corneas, bone, saphenous and femoral veins, heart valves and skin.

• Most people waiting for transplants need corneas or kidneys. Hearts, lungs and livers offer the greatest potential to save people’s lives.

• Virtually anyone regardless of age, race or gender can become an organ and tissue donor. Donors are usually healthy people who have suffered a life-ending trauma and are declared legally dead. Medical eligibility depends on many factors and is determined after the donor’s death.

Those of all ages and medical histories should consider themselves potential donors for deceased donation. There is no cost to the donor’s family or estate for donation, and donation becomes an option only when a patient is declared clinically and legally dead.

A national system matches available organs from the donor with people on the waiting list based on blood type, body size, how sick they are, donor distance, tissue type and time on the list. Race, income, gender, celebrity and social status are never considered.

Check to see if your Illinois drivers license or state ID card displays a red state logo with “DONOR.” If not, think about signing up on the Secretary of State’s registry at

In a statement, Gift of Hope President/CEO Harry Wilkins said the effort to expand the pool of organ donors is one that requires everyone’s involvement.

“We are proud to join forces with communities, partners and advocates in underscoring the importance of life-giving organ and tissue donation and encouraging people to register their decision as organ and tissue donors,” he remarked.