Oregon, U.S. kidney transplant waiting lists grow

PORTLAND – The number of people awaiting a deceased donor kidney transplant in the United States has exceeded 60,000 for the first time, according to new data released by the nation’s Organ Procurement and Transplantation Network (OPTN), operated by the United Network for Organ Sharing (UNOS).

In Oregon, the area’s kidney transplant hospitals, Legacy Good Samaritan Hospital & Medical Center and Oregon Health & Science University, also note an overall climb in recent kidney transplant needs.

Legacy reports that at the end of 2002, the hospital had 52 people waiting for a donor. At the end of 2003, that number had climbed to 82 – a 58 percent increase. In 2003, 145 kidney transplants were performed at OHSU, compared 129 the previous year. Nationally, last year, a record total of 15,137 kidney transplants were performed.

Currently, 248 patients in Oregon still await a deceased donor kidney transplant.

Last year, Troyce Crucchiola of Portland was one of Oregon’s lucky few. After waiting 10 years for the fleshy pink organ that finally came to him one year ago next week at Legacy Good Samaritan Hospital, he is now a staunch advocate for organ donation. Troyce is grateful that the deceased young man, whom his organ came from, had the foresight and a supportive family to allow the donation to take place.

“I am eternally grateful for this organ, and to my donor and their family,” Crucchiola said. “I will go to the ends of the earth to take care of this precious gift.”

More than 6,000 Americans die needlessly every year waiting for transplants due to a lack of organ donors.

“We truly wish we could meet the needs of all today’s transplant candidates, and we are seeing encouraging increases in organ donation,” said Mary Jane Hunt, Executive Director of Oregon Donor Program , the region’s coalition for organ and tissue donation. “At the same time, the demand for kidney transplants has doubled in the past 10 years.”

The kidney is the organ most commonly transplanted and most commonly needed. Kidney failure can occur from a variety of illnesses including diabetes, hypertension and diseases that damage the specialized cells of the kidney. African-Americans and Hispanics tend to have higher rates of kidney failure than other ethnicities and account for more than half of the candidates needing transplants.

There has been a 166% increase in the number of African-Americans waiting for organ transplants over the past decade.

“Sadly, for so many more, the only option is to wait for a transplant from a generous deceased donor,” Hunt said. “And the best way to reduce these waiting list numbers is by making and sharing a commitment to become an organ and tissue donor.”

The Organ Procurement and Transplantation Network (OPTN) is operated under contract with the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Health Resources and Services Administration, Division of Transplantation by the United Network for Organ Sharing (UNOS). The OPTN brings together medical professionals, transplant recipients and donor families to develop organ transplantation policy.

About Oregon Donor Program
By providing current information on organ and tissue donation, Oregon Donor Program, a non-profit organization, has been successfully advocating for improved donation laws, educating the public, and raising the region’s organ and tissue donation rate since 1975. With the support of the area’s major organ and tissue transplant and donation programs, Oregon Donor Program manages many public awareness and educational activities aimed at motivating both adults and high-school age individuals to become donors in Oregon and Southwest Washington. For more information or to request donor cards, visit www.ordonorprogram.org or call 800.452.1369