Is It Life You Love?
Then, Share It: Become an Organ Donor!
April 2 to 8 is National Public Health Week
But April is also National Donate Life Month, and OMHRC liked to use both opportunities to call on minorities to learn about organ donation and become organ donors, since it's one of the biggest public health challenges among minority communities. To this end, the Coalition on Donation created a quiz to test your knowledge of organ donation. How much do you know? Test yourself and see!
Giving Back Life: The Story of Pearl and Vicki Lambert
As co-founder of the Let Us Live Foundation in Atlanta, Lisa Monroe sometimes finds herself presenting information about organ donation to a skeptical audience.
As a two-time transplant recipient, Monroe holds the audience captive.
"I think basically they're not educated about it and I find that people are afraid of what they don't know - fear of the unknown," she said.
At the age of 17, complications from high blood pressure caused Monroe's kidneys to fail, resulting in her first experience with dialysis.
"Being young and brazen you feel you can conquer anything," said the New York native. "I thought it was something you could get over like the common cold."
And although Monroe received her first kidney transplant in 1988 and her second in 1993, positive experiences have grown from the event.
"It caused me to see life through a different set of glasses or a different set of eyes," said the 36-year-old. "I think it could have been a lot worse. There are still patients who wallow in their misery. They don't look at life and see what it has to offer."
Along with the modified outlook came the foundation. Started in 2000, Monroe and fellow kidney recipient Lynda G. Washington came across a mother who was no longer able to work but wasn't receiving enough assistance to take care of her family.
And thus the foundation was born as a faith-based organization to prevent kidney disease in the minority community, provide physical, emotional and financial support for people with kidney failure and to educate and encourage members of the African-American community to donate organs.
As the only organization with a 24-hour telephone support line, Monroe said it often disseminates information to area churches and health fairs, using personal stores of organ donation as a catalyst for education and change.
During the Annual Health Screening and Awareness Day they offer free testing to the community for kidney failure and information about organ donation at a local church or in a park for an average of 200 people. Information is distributed and if people sign up to be donors they are given lapel pins.
Monroe said even if people are open to the idea of donating their organs after they die, many say they're concerned doctors will pick and choose who gets to receive them or that if they donate a kidney now, they might need it later in life.
If people are hesitant about becoming organ donors, Monroe said she tries to "express to them that they're giving the gift of life to someone, giving them a second chance."
Monroe takes the straightforward approach to recruiting donors.
"We try to arm them with as much information as we can because knowledge is power; if they know, I find they're more likely to sign their donor cards," she said.
With double-sided donor cards people are able to declare their donor status on one side of the card and alert family members about their decision with the other.
"They have to discuss it with a loved one to let their family know that's their wish," Monroe said.
The organization also assists people who are awaiting transplants.
"I tell patients they're the head of their medical team," Monroe said. "The doctor's the coach, but you're the head of the team, so you have to be well informed. So what keeps you healthy, what keeps you well is information."
Information has also proven vital to LifeCenter Northwest Organ Donation. Located in Bellevue, Wash., the non-profit organization makes their services available for more than 7.5 million people in Washington, Alaska, Montana and northern Idaho by funding education and outreach programs to increase organ and tissue donations.
For the past year, LifeCenter has begun to focus on Asian Americans and Hispanics. With a grant to conduct focus groups with the Asian-American community, Marketing Program Manager Maggie Adams said the organization would test outreach methods and monitor interest in order to gauge responses.
To reach the Hispanic population, Adams said they are working with the Farm Workers Clinic to spread the word about organ and tissue donation, because for some migrant workers the clinic is the primary care facility.
"People want to hear things from people they understand—people like them that they respect," Adams said. "We're kind of trying to work from the outside in and the inside out to make sure the information is available to everyone."
Now in the midst of creating a Spanish version of their Web site and an advertising campaign in Spanish and English, the non-profit has started to receive more inquiries within the last three months since beginning the relationship with the clinic a year ago. Adams said although it took some time to find out how to spread their message, they are now invited to different events to pass out pamphlets and brochures in Spanish. Relying heavily on testimonials from respected community members with personal transplantation experience to disseminate the facts has proven to be key, yielding the recent results, Adams said.
"We're reaching people we've never reached before," she said. "We give them a message from someone they trust. We've found by far that's the most effective way."
Fia Curley is a writer for the OMHRC. Comments? Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Organ and Tissue Donation 101
National Donate Life Month
Let us Live Foundation
LifeCenter Northwest Organ Donation
Luring Life Savers to Donate Blood
National Minority Donor Awareness Day Quiz
Giving to the Fullest… Donating Yourself