Last April I wrote an editorial talking about Miss Utah 2001, Jackie Hunt and her efforts promoting awareness of organ and tissue donations.
Over time, I have heard from many people in Price who were unaware of how to sign up to be an organ donor. Since the campaign's launch in April of 2002 the Utah Donor Registry (www.yesutah.org or 1-866-YES-UTAH) now has recorded more than one million potential organ, eye and tissue donors.
Krista Aller, a middle aged, female social worker from Logan, was the one-millionth person to sign-up on the registry.
This remarkable milestone was celebrated with a commemorative billboard campaign in Salt Lake City. The new billboard reads, "One million Utahns have said 'yes' to organ donation. Have you?"
"It amazed me when I learned that I was the one-millionth person to register to become an organ and tissue donor," said Aller. "I was just doing my part to help others. Plus, if you don't sign-up on the registry, your family must decide whether or not you wanted to be a donor. That can make the death more difficult for them."
Aller knows well the pain families must endure when faced with the death of a loved one and the confusion about donation, because she works as a social worker for Logan Regional Medical Center. She explained that registering as a donor makes it easier for families, since they can fulfill their loved one's wish, instead of guessing one's wish.
Alex McDonald, Chairperson of the Utah Coalition for Organ, Eye & Tissue Donation, remarked on the phenomenal success of the new Utah Donor Registry.
"Consider this fact," said McDonald, "Among Utahns between the ages of 16 and 74, over 74 percent of them have joined the Utah Donor Registry. That means over one million Utahns have decided to save lives through donation. That means that more daughters, husbands, wives and children will have better lives, because of the kindness of strangers."
Robyn Luke, whose sister, Laura, died waiting for a lung transplant, is a community advocate for organ, eye and tissue donation.
"The only way to save more lives is to have more donors," she said. "It's so distressing to wait by the phone, waiting for that call when you need a lifesaving transplant. But it's even more distressing when donors are lost, because no one knew that this person wanted to be a donor."
When Governor Mike Leavitt, Utah State Senator Karen Hale and the Utah Coalition for Organ, Eye, and Tissue Donation launched a $1.06 million, first-time federally-funded, on-line database, the driver license division provided approximately 900,000 names of people who designated 'yes' on their licenses for donation.
Since then, through the pages of community newspapers, a comprehensive marketing and community outreach campaign to educate and register Utahns as organ, eye and tissue donors, has increased the donor registry to over a million.
A survey performed last year indicates that 91 percent of Utahns favor donation, while currently only 65 percent of families consent for donation when a loved one dies.
The discrepancy is due in large part to family grief and confusion about a potential donor's wishes at the time of death. Now, families will be notified if their deceased member was on the registry, relieving them of having to guess what their loved one wanted.
Additional information is available by calling 1-801-521-1755 or logging on to YesUtah.comor email@example.com.