The ceremony celebrates the gift of all the organ and cornea donations in the state of Michigan over the years. According to the Michigan Department of State, an average of 79 people receive an organ transplant everyday, though an average 22 people die everyday waiting for a transplant because of a shortage of donated organs. In 2014, 3,592 people were on a transplant waiting list in Michigan.
St. Mary’s Director of Neuroscience and Orthopedic Nursing Jill Loftus says while organ transplants aren’t performed at the Saginaw hospital, they do harvest the organs. She says their numbers have declined in recent years.
“It used to be like five years ago that we were very aggressive, 25 to 30 a year. Our numbers have fallen off a little bit, and I think that’s just probably awareness. So we’re trying to do community outreach, have little sessions and try to have donor registry drives to help people realize that the need is great.”
Contracting with Gift of Life Michigan, the hospital works with a coordinator who reaches out to other facilities in need of the organs.
One such recipient is Dow Chemical employee Tom Carr. Carr was diagnosed with a progressive eye disease called keratoconus that causes the corneas to bulge into a cone-like shape. He received cornea transplants in both eyes from separate donors.
Carr says he’s been blessed.
“I’m very blessed to be able to have the gift of life from a donor and their family. That they were willing to provide that to somebody they didn’t know.”
Gift of Life Hospital Services Associate at St. Mary’s Lori Kelley explains the importance of becoming an organ donor.
“It’s very important for an individual to let their preference for organ, tissue and eye donation be known. That way, at the time of their death, their family doesn’t have to make that decision.”
To be placed on the organ donor registry, visit www.giftoflifemichigan.org, a local Secretary of State office or the Secretary of State website at www.michigan.gov/sos and click on the Organ Donation tab.