Every 12 minutes, a new name is added to the waiting list. Every day, 17 people die while waiting for a transplant. These are alarming facts that could be changed drastically if people would only donate their organs for transplant. That is what National Donor Sabbath is designed to do.
Faith communities throughout the country and right here in Sampson County will observe National Donor Sabbath this weekend, Nov. 11-13. The communities will be implementing activities to increase awareness of the critical need for organs and tissues for the miracle of transplantation. This event has been going on for more than 12 years, with interfaith communities comining together to celebrate life and stress the importance of donation. Faith leaders participating in discussions of donation with their congregations affirm that choosing to be an organ and tissue donor offers the opportunity to share the greatest blessing of all — the gift of life.
Participation in this national day has been on the increase since its inception, but more individuals must become aware of donation. “The goal of Gift of Life Donation Initiative,” says Health and Human Service Secretary Tommy G. Thompson, “is to get information out, to encourage families all over American to understand the importance of organ donation, and to increase the number of donors. People need to talk to their families and make their intentions know. Organ donation is a gift that proves beyond a doubt that out of tragedy can come hope … out of death, new life.”
As of October 2011, one million donors had signed up to give the gift of life, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
One area minister that has his heart in the National Donor Sabbath project is the Rev. Dr. Doak Mansfield, pastor of Red Hill Universalist Church. Mansfield had his first heart attack in 1993. He had a pacemaker and defibrillator implanted in 2002 and was told he had a life expectancy of five years. Mansfield received his new heart on June 21, 2010 at Oschner Medical Foundation in New Orleans, La.
“I was a dead man. I have an O negative blood type which is the rarest of all and was on the waiting list for four months before a heart became available. It was a total exception and went against all odds that I received a heart so quickly. My life has changed so dramatically since the transplant and I am grateful to still be here and feeling so healthy.” Mansfield does not know who his donor was and his first anniversary letter was not answered. “It was a bit disappointing not to get a response from my letter but maybe one day I will know who gave me this gift.” The pastor joked and stated, “I think I received the heart of a black stripper that became a roller derby queen,” expressed Mansfield. “I feel like a 35-year-old in a 63-year-old body,” said the minister.
Mansfield has been asked to serve as a recruiter for donors in the area. “This is what Donor Sabbath is all about. Increasing awareness of the need and to get people to commit to become donors. God recycles…sign up and get on the right side of the Lord,” asserted the pastor.
Statistics show that North Carolina is better off than many states. The United Network for Organ Sharing maintains a national patient waiting list for organ transplants. You can view the entire list by visiting www.unos.org. As of Aug. 1, 2011, there were 89,271 kidneys needed nationally and 3,026 of those are in North Carolina. Livers needed stand at 16,178 nationally and 335 in the state. There are 3,184 people waiting nationally for a heart and 101 in North Carolina. A total of 111,601 organs in the United States and 3,542 patients in North Carolina awaiting transplants. In 2010 28,464 patients received transplants in the United States and 908 patients in North Carolina received a transplant. However, 7,025 patients died nationally and 195 people died in North Carolina while waiting for an organ.
Mansfield explained that the United States is an opt in society, meaning that donors have to opt into the program to be a donor. However, countries like France are opt out societies where donors have to opt out if they do not want to participate. “Interestingly France has a surplus of organs available for transplant. It is a shame that the country of the free has so many that are dying waiting for organs,” expressed the minister.
Carolina Donor Services is the federally-designed organ procurement organization serving 6.1 million people in 79 counties of North Carolina and Danville, Va.Carolina Donor Services is dedicated to all aspect of organ and tissue donation. They coordinate the entire organ and tissue donation process for our region and provide pubic and professional education regarding donation. To learn more about what they do and organ donation visit their website at www.carolinadonorservices.org. or you may call them at 1-800-200-2672 or e-mail them at email@example.com.
There is some confusion regarding organ and tissue donation among the faith based communities.This is just another factor of why the National Donor Sabbath is so important explained Mansfield and is backed by both the national and state donor organizations. People considering organ or tissue donation and transplantation often wonder if such acts are compatible with their religious beliefs. Research has found that most religious support donation and transplantation. In promotional information shared by the Carolina Donor Service, over 30 various religious groups are provided that support organ and tissue donation and transplantation to some degree. This information includes the Amish, Baptist, Brethren, Buddhists, Catholics, The Christian Church, Episcopalians, Greek Orthodox, Gypsies, Hindus,Islamic, Judaism Lutherans Presbyterians Shintos, Society of Friends and the United Methodist just to list a portion of the list.
Mansfield urged that even if your church is not observing National Donor Sabbath to bring it up for discuss and mention it to your pastor so more people can be informed and realize the great need and the blessings that can come from becoming a donor, not just to the recipient but to the donors family as well.