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Thousands wait for organ donations

Nearly 122,000 people across the nation are on organ transplant waiting lists, but a shortage of organs means many will die before they can receive lifesaving surgery.

More than 100,000 of those who are waiting are in need of a kidney, said Leslie Brock, executive director of Donate Life Northwest, which registers and educates Oregonians and residents of southwestern Washington about organ, eye and tissue donation.

Oregon Driver & Motor Vehicle Services also can register people as organ donors.

"There's such a shortage of kidneys," Brock said. "Eighty percent of people on the organ waiting list are waiting for a kidney."

She said a person doesn't have to be a relative of a patient who needs an organ in order to donate. As long as the donor and recipient are a match, a donation can move forward.

"We all have two kidneys, and we can donate one and save someone's life," Brock said.

Living donors also can donate a portion of their livers, she said.

One deceased donor can save eight lives through the donation of organs that include the heart, liver, pancreas, kidneys and lungs. The lives of at least 50 more can be improved through the donation of tissues such as corneas and eyes, heart valves, tendons, bone and skin, according to Donate Life Northwest.

"One person can impact dozens of lives," Brock said.

In most cases, a deceased donor has to have died in a hospital in order for organs to be recovered, she said.

Corneas and some types of other tissue can be recovered if the person died at home, as long as an eye or tissue bank is notified in a short amount of time, she said.

People who want to help save lives should register to be organ donors, and then tell their families about that choice.

"It makes that time so much easier," Brock said.

Donate Life Northwest volunteers will be hosting information tables from 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. Wednesday, Jan. 20, at the Rambling Rogue Café at Asante Rogue Regional Medical Center, 2825 E. Barnett Road, Medford.

Four "Threads of Life" quilts are on display in the hospital's north lobby atrium through Jan. 29. Individual squares created by people touched by organ donation have been sewn together to make the quilts. Visitors to the hospital can look through a book that details the stories behind the squares.

For more information about organ donation, visit www.donatelifenw.org.

Staff reporter Vickie Aldous can be reached at 541-776-4486 or valdous@mailtribune.com. Follow her at www.twitter.com/VickieAldous.