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PO Box 360
Trenton, NJ 08625-0360

For Release:
April 25, 2003

Clifton R. Lacy, M.D.
Commissioner

For Further Information Contact:
Donna Leusner
(609) 984-7160


 
DHSS Highlights the Importance of Organ Donation


 
TRENTON, NJ – 159 New Jerseyans died while waiting for an organ donation in 2002.
17 people die nationally while waiting for an organ donation every day.

“No gift is as meaningful as the gift of life. I urge every New Jersey family to discuss organ donation and to consider giving this gift to others by signing a donor card and informing their families of their wishes,” said Health and Senior Services Commissioner Clifton R. Lacy, M.D. “By signing a donor card, one individual has the potential to save or enhance as many as 80 lives.”

Organ and Tissue Donor Awareness Week in New Jersey was highlighted during an event in Trenton which included a donor family, organ recipients and a woman awaiting a transplant.

Lack of donor organs significantly impacts New Jersey’s most vulnerable populations. “The shortage of donor organs is particularly acute in minority communities, where people are disproportionately affected by diseases that can lead to organ failure,” said Dr. Lacy. “While the Department is working on prevention and care for diabetes, high blood pressure and other diseases to minimize organ failure, it is vitally important that suitable donor organs be available when needed.’’

Dr. Lacy was joined at the event by a Vineland woman who is on the waiting list for a heart transplant, a Brick grandmother who received a heart transplant and an Ocean City mother whose teenage daughter was the donor of several organs. Doctors and nurses representing two of the state’s six transplant programs and representatives of the state’s two organ recovery organizations also participated in the press conference at the DHSS building in Trenton.

Among the speakers was Carolyn Phillips, 50, of Vineland, who was diagnosed with heart failure five years ago. Last month, she was placed on the waiting list at Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital in New Brunswick for a donor heart.

Lee Ann Kyle of Ocean City brings the perspective of a donor family. Her 15-year-old daughter, Elizabeth, who died suddenly from juvenile diabetes in 1998, provided organs for five people, two of whom the family has met.

Bonnye Spino, 57, of Brick Township, received a heart transplant in August 2001. She has become friends with the family who donated the heart of their 27-year-old son who died in a motorcycle accident.

Governor James E. McGreevey has issued a proclamation marking April 20 –26 as New Jersey Organ and Tissue Donor Awareness Week. Last year, nearly 25,000 organ transplants were performed in the United States, including 511 in New Jersey. Six New Jersey hospitals are approved to perform solid organ transplants such as heart, kidney, liver and pancreas.

“Governor McGreevey’s declaration underscores the importance of informing New Jerseyans about the desperate need that exists for more organ and tissue donors in the state as well as the nation,” said Joseph Roth, president and chief executive officer of The New Jersey Organ and Tissue Sharing Network, the Springfield-based, non-profit organ recovery agency serving North and Central New Jersey and the City of Camden.

“Tens of thousands of people nationwide are waiting for a life-saving transplant, including those in our own state. The number of people waiting will go down only if the number of potential donors goes up,” Roth said.

"We are proud of the residents of New Jersey and their spirit of giving. Their generosity continues to give hope to so many others who still await a life-saving transplant," said Howard M. Nathan, president and chief executive officer of Gift of Life Donor Program, the Philadelphia-based agency which serves Southern New Jersey. "We thank the families of donors in our region who have carried out their loved one's wishes and have given so many a second chance at life.”

As well as providing solid organs such as heart, kidney, liver and pancreas, donors also provide tissues including cornea, bone and skin.

A shortage of organs always exists because waiting list growth outpaces available donors. Nearly 81,000 people are now waiting for organs nationwide, including 2,400 New Jerseyans. Last year, nearly 6,200 people nationwide -- including 159 in New Jersey -- died while waiting for a donor organ.

If you are interested in becoming a donor, discuss the issue with family members. Then sign and carry an organ donor card or indicate your decision on your driver’s license. New Jersey residents may also choose to join the Sharing Network’s New Jersey Organ and Tissue Donor Registry.

For more information on becoming an organ donor, contact the Sharing Network at
1-800-SHARE-NJ or the Gift of Life at 215-557-8090 or 1-800-DONORS-1. For additional information, visit www.sharenj.org or www.donors1.org.


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