More minorities need to be organ donors

More than 10,000 Texans are waiting for a lifesaving organ transplant, including many here in College Station and Bryan.

Latinos and African Americans make up the largest portion of the state waitlist (more than half), yet, trends show they’re less likely to say “yes” to donation.

As an organ recovery coordinator supervisor with Southwest Transplant Alliance, a nonprofit organ procurement organization, I’m one of the first people to talk with families in the hospital about organ donation after the loss of a loved one.

Most people don’t know that the opportunity for donation is incredibly rare — fewer than 1% of deaths occur in a way that allows for donation. Unfortunately, this usually means traumatic and sudden accidents.

Although I meet with people on the worst days of their lives, I find comfort in the fact that I can offer them hope through the selfless gift of life.

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Although I encounter patients of all backgrounds, it’s hard to ignore the disparity that multicultural communities — that includes my Hispanic community — face when it comes to organ and tissue donation and transplantation.

Inequitable access to health care, higher risk of health issues, lack of trust in medical providers and the prevalence of myths all contribute to individuals of color having a heightened need for transplants, but less of a desire to become donors themselves.

While it’s not a requirement for recipients to be of the same ethnicity as donors, compatible blood types and tissue markers are more likely to be found among members of the same ethnicity. And, research indicates that this can also contribute to transplant success rates.

More diversity in the donor pool helps everyone on the waitlist, and given the fact that another person is added to the list every nine minutes, multicultural communities need to say “yes” to donation now more than ever.

A big part of my role at Southwest Transplant Alliance is building trust, which starts with education.

My team and I are responsible for sharing the truth about donation and debunking common myths (including some that you may have heard before, too). When I approach families, I want them to be able to make an informed decision with all the facts, which are:

Medical professionals always provide lifesaving measures to patients, regardless of their donation status.

Race, social or financial status never factor into who receives donated organ or tissue.

Anyone, regardless of age, ethnicity or health status, can register to be a donor.

Almost all religions support donation as an act of service and love.

Organ donors still can have an open-casket funeral, if desired.

Finally, there is no additional cost to families for organ, eye or tissue donation.

I come from a largely Hispanic and Catholic family, and even though I work in donation and transplantation, some of my own loved ones are uncomfortable with the topic because of misinformation.

I personally understand how challenging this can be, but it doesn’t have to be.

August is National Multiethnic Donor Awareness Month, a time dedicated to saving the lives of diverse communities by creating a positive environment for donation and transplantation. And, everyone can play a part. It’s important that we educate ourselves and others about donation.

Together, we can share a new perspective that empowers everyone to become an organ donor.

You can learn more about the donation process, hear from Texans impacted by donation and record your decision to be a donor at organ.org/1yes or, in Spanish at organ.org/espanol.

You can also say “yes” to donation by completing a paper form by mail or when you renew your driver’s license or state ID at your local DPS office.

And remember to talk to your loved ones about your decision — you may just inspire them to say “yes,” too.

Christina Macias is a regional organ recovery supervisor with Southwest Transplant Alliance, a nonprofit organ procurement organization serving 89 Texas counties, including Bryan-College Station.

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