PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — Providence marked April as National Organ Donation Month at an event Wednesday at City Hall.
“This also is the month to recognize that life can be had again through transplantation,” said Matt Boger of New England Donor Services.
At events like this in Providence, and at the R.I. State House earlier this month, officials hope to bring awareness to becoming a registered organ donor, which can be done when getting or renewing a driver’s license, Real ID or state ID.
“Organ donation is very, very, very rare. It does not happen often,” Boger said. “In fact, in all deaths, only 5% of individuals are able to be organ donors.”
At Wednesday’s event, Providence Mayor Jorge Elorza urged Rhode Islanders to “check the box or answer yes” to becoming an organ donor when getting their license or ID.
“I’ve done it as well, and I’ll tell you, the first time I got a license I wasn’t an organ donor. I just didn’t really know about it, so I didn’t say yes,” Elorza recalled.
“My mother is an organ donor … and I remember her discussing it one day, and she mentioned that if she’s no longer around but she can do something really small to help someone else, it’s kind of a no-brainer,” Elorza added.
Watch: Donate Life event (story continues below)
At least 260 people are waiting to receive a kidney through Rhode Island Hospital’s Transplant Center.
“When we started our program here, we had 120 patients on the waiting list, and it’s growing constantly,” Dr. Paul Morrissey told 12 News earlier this month.
Morrissey, who heads the program, said about a third of the center’s patients receive kidneys from a living donor.
“The other two thirds are waiting for kidneys to become available from people who have consented to do so on their driver’s license,” he said.
Steve Bruno was moved to the top of the transplant waiting list in 2006 after being told his new kidney would come from a living donor. Additionally, Bruno learned he would be a part of New England’s first three-way kidney exchange.
“A good Samaritan came off the street in Boston and said, ‘I would give a kidney to whoever needs one,’ Bruno recalled. “And he started a chain reaction of kidneys being swapped.”
According to the United Network for Organ Sharing (UNOS), more than 106,000 people are currently in need of an organ transplant. New England Donor Services says more than 6,700 New Englanders are in need.
“But really, once we’re gone, do we really need them?” Bruno asked. “So, it could save a lot of people by being an organ donor.”
In our latest 12 on 12 Digital Original, the Gift of Life, hear personal stories from organ transplant recipients and what inspired blood and platelet donors to give.