PO Box 360
Trenton, NJ 08625-0360

For Release:
February 14, 2013

Mary E. O'Dowd, M.P.H.
Commissioner

For Further Information Contact:
Office of Communications
(609) 984-7160

Christie Administration Recognizes National Donor Day

In commemoration of February 14 as National Donor Day, Health Commissioner Mary E. O'Dowd is encouraging New Jersey residents to celebrate this Valentine's Day by signing organ and tissue donor cards and donating blood.

Valentine's Day is an ideal time to raise awareness of the tens of thousands of people on waiting lists for organ, bone marrow and other tissue transplants. National Donor Day, designated by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services in 1998, highlights the variety of ways that people can become donors and save lives.

"ThisValentine's Day give the gift of life," said Commissioner O'Dowd. "One organ donor can potentially save the lives of up to 8 people. People who sign donor cards and pledge to give blood are making a commitment that gives people a second chance at life."

Through medical advances, organ and tissue donation have become a standard, successful treatment for many diseases and conditions. As an example, the Worldwide Network for Blood and Marrow Transplantation announced the one millionth blood stem cell transplant in December 2012, a milestone that emphasizes the advances made in transplantation surgery.

In 2012, approximately 26,000 people received transplants in the U.S. Over half of these organ transplants were kidney transplants. The other organs, such as liver, pancreas, heart, lung and intestine make up the remaining number.

Blood and bone marrow are among the tissue donations in constant demand: blood for treating injuries and illnesses and for use during surgeries; bone marrow for treating cancers, sickle cell anemia and other immune system and genetic disorders. Other life-saving tissue donations include skin, heart valves, bone, ligaments, veins and arteries.

However, the demand for organ and tissue donation vastly exceeds the number of donations. The need for donors increases every day. 

  • According to the Organ Procurement and Transplantation Network, more than 117,000 people in the U.S. are currently waiting for organ transplants - including more than 3,330 New Jersey residents.
  • The National Marrow Donor Program estimates that approximately 35,000 children and adults are suffering from blood diseases that can be treated only by marrow/blood stem or blood transplant.
  • The American Red Cross says that every two seconds someone in this country needs blood. In the winter, New Jersey, blood donation is hampered by snowstorms and flu season. When the need for blood exceeds the supply on hand, New Jersey has to import blood from other states.

The need for organ and tissue donations and the shortage of donors affects people of all ethnic groups. However, minorities are disproportionately affected. The need for organ donation is greatest among African Americans and Hispanics because they have higher rates of hypertension, diabetes and obesity - diseases which more often require organ transplants.

In 2010, Governor Christie signed Jaden's Law, a measure designed to save lives by promoting bone marrow donation awareness in New Jersey. The legislation was inspired by a 3-year-old boy who lost his battle with Leukemia in 2007 after a suitable donor bone marrow could not be located.

For more than a decade, national studies have found that minorities have poorer access to transplants than whites. A recent study published by researchers from Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine in Baltimore found that African Americans are 66 percent less likely than whites to get a kidney transplant before dialysis is required. "Transplant programs and community organizations need to be thinking about ways to reduce disparities," said Commissioner O'Dowd.

New Jersey needs blood donations from all ethnic and racial groups. However, some blood types, such as B positive, are more prevalent in certain ethnic and racial groups and these are often in short supply. Some African Americans have rare blood types like U negative or Duffy negative, which are rarely found in other ethnic groups.

Organ donation organizations in New Jersey such as the NJ Sharing Network and Donate Life NJ/Gift of Life Donor Program provide information on becoming an organ and tissue donor.

There are also a number of Registries where people can join to become donors. The New Jersey Motor Vehicles Commission helps drivers to register as organ and tissue donors online at www.state.nj.us/mvc/Licenses/organ_donor.htm or at their local agencies.

People interested in bone marrow and blood stem cell donation can register through the Be The Match Registry at www.marrow.org. To become a blood donor visit www.njsave3lives.com for a calendar of public blood drives and a list of local blood centers or contact the blood center nearest you.