Did you know that about 60% of the 112,000 patients on the deceased-donor waiting list for an organ (most of them for a kidney) are minorities? African Americans are the single largest group, at about 29%. Making this sad statistic even worse is that registered minority organ donors make up only about 14% of total donors. Yes, you can receive an organ from someone of another race, but within-race matches have a better chance of success.
That’s why National Minority Donor Awareness Month is shining a light on this critical issue. The idea is to educate, debunk some myths (I’ve written about a few), and shorten everyone’s wait for a successful transplant. We want everyone to register, of course, but it’s all the more important for minorities. Registering to be an organ donor after you die takes only 2 minutes. You can do it online anytime on many sites, such as organdonor.gov. You needn’t wait till you renew your driver license and get that little red heart.
When we look at living donation, the gap is even wider. For example, only about 8% of living donors are African American. It’s a double whammy because the very conditions that make somebody need a transplant also rule out someone with those conditions from being a donor– such as uncontrolled high blood pressure and diabetes. Those are the two biggest risk factors for kidney disease, and African Americans and Hispanics have a much higher risk than white individuals.
Living donation has traditionally been uncommon in the African American community. A black woman I know who donated to her mother was expecting friends and family to oppose her decision. Instead, fortunately, she was able to start many meaningful conversations. People who had never thought about living donation before told her they were willing to consider it.
So start a conversation whenever you can. We need to increase those registrations and living donations–not just during Minority Donor Awareness Month.