ANN ARBOR — For the third consecutive year, Gift of Life Michigan has honored the generosity of a record number of organ donors, saving thousands of lives and healing thousands more despite the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
Gift of Life saw an increase in organ donors in 2020, recording its third consecutive year with more than 1,000 organs transplanted. In total, 1,047 organs were transplanted from 374 donors, which represents about a 10 percent increase in donors over 2019. Also, 1,574 people donated tissue last year. More than 225,000 names were added to the Organ Donor Registry, too.
“We faced many significant challenges in 2020 and I am proud of how well we responded as an organization and as individuals,” said Dorrie Dils, CEO of Gift of Life Michigan. “Our life-saving work never ceased, even though we are still in the midst of the pandemic. None of this would have been possible without our selfless donors, their families, our hospital partners and our incredibly dedicated team – who showed their resiliency in enormously difficult circumstances. They are the true heroes.”
The state trend is a reflection of an overall increase in organ donation and transplantations across the country. In 2020, 12,587 deceased donors provided one or more organs to save and enhance the lives of others, representing an increase of six percent over 2019. A total of 33,309 organs were transplanted, which marked a new record for the eighth consecutive year.
Still, there is more to do. As of Jan. 1, 2021, there are about 2,500 people in Michigan waiting for new organs in Michigan and about 110,000 waiting throughout the U.S. Twenty people die every day waiting for a lifesaving transplant in the U.S., and someone is added to the national list, on average, about every 10 minutes. The only way to meet this need and improve lives is for more people to add their name to the Organ Donor Registry.
“We recognize that there are still far too many people waiting for the healing that these precious gifts can bring and are dedicated to helping as many people as possible,” Dils said. “We will continue to work every day with our hospital and transplant center partners to improve the process and reach out to the communities we serve to encourage people to sign up as donors. It is our hope that one day no one will die while waiting for a new organ and we are dedicated to bringing that day to fruition.”
To help spread the word and inspire people to sign up as donors, Gift of Life is launching a 50 for 50 campaign in honor of its 50th anniversary. The organization was founded in November 1971, by four surgeons who sought a more efficient way of sharing lifesaving organs. Since then, Gift of Life Michigan has honored the generosity of more than 9,500 organ donors, as well as more than 24,500 tissue donors, since that service was added in 1988.
“I am so proud of this organization, our team and our volunteers for all the good they have done for others,” said Dorrie Dils, CEO of Gift of Life Michigan. “We have helped save thousands of lives and touched so many more. I hope those who came before us are proud of the organization they created and all that we have done – and continue to do – to honor life through donation.”
The 50 for 50 campaign will honor donors, their families, recipients and others by highlighting their stories throughout the year through traditional and social media. Gift of Life will also expand its digital outreach through Facebook events and virtual forums designed to inspire others and encourage people to add their names to the Michigan Organ Donor Registry.
“We hope that by sharing these heartwarming stories we can continue to break down stigmas and myths attached to organ and tissue donation and motivate everyone who has not already signed up to add their name to the Michigan Donor Registry,” Dils said. “We also want to honor everyone who has so generously donated to provide others a second chance at life.”
For more information about the #50for50 campaign, or to sign up as a donor, visit www.giftoflifemichigan.org/aboutdonation/50-stories-honor-50-years. — G.G.