Gov. Dave Heineman today launched Nebraska’s observance of April as Donate Life Month. Donate Life Month is part of a national observance to increase awareness for lifesaving organ, eye and tissue donations.
“Donate Life Month brings attention to the more than 450 Nebraskans who are waiting for a potentially lifesaving transplant,” Gov. Heineman said. “I thank those families who have so selflessly given others a chance at life, and I want to thank the many Nebraskans who have indicated their willingness to be organ donors.”
The governor was joined by Dr. Joann Schaefer, chief medical officer and director of the Division of Public Health, Beverly Neth, director of the Nebraska Department of Motor Vehicles, and Vickie Ahlers, chairman of the Board of Directors for Donate Life Nebraska. In 2008, Dr. Schaefer received a liver transplant from a living donor. Neth has twice received living kidney donations from relatives.
In Nebraska, 458 individuals are currently on a waiting list for organ and tissue donations. In 2010, 303 Nebraskans received lifesaving organ transplants.
Dr. Schaefer said, “I will be eternally grateful for the gift of life from my donor. It is an amazing feeling to suddenly feel healthy and have my life back. I want those waiting to feel the same thing that I have been so lucky to experience.”
At the end of 2010, 656,875 Nebraskans were designated donors on the Nebraska Donor Registry, which included more than 23,000 new registrations. Approximately half of licensed drivers in Nebraska are designated as organ donors.
Neth said, “I take pride in knowing that DMV personnel, particularly those in driver licensing, make a difference; however, our involvement pales in comparison to the decision of hundreds of thousands of Nebraskans who have signified that they want to be organ and tissue donors.”
Ahlers said, “These numbers represent more than statistics. Each person who signs up as a donor can potentially save eight lives through organ donation, restore sight to two people through cornea donation, and improve mobility and health of up to 50 others through tissue donation. These are real lives that are being dramatically impacted by Nebraskans making the decision to sign up on the Nebraska Donor Registry.”
Fifteen Nebraska counties had at least 50 percent of applicants for driver’s license or state identification cards join the Nebraska Donor Registry in 2010, up from 10 counties in 2009. Arthur County is the first in the state to reach the 60 percent donor designation rate. Each county will receive a framed certificate acknowledging their accomplishment, including: Arthur, 61.1 percent; Sarpy, 55.3 percent; Cass 55 percent; Washington, 54.4 percent; Kearney, 53.4 percent;
Buffalo, 53 percent; Dawes, 52.6 percent; Gosper, 52 percent; Keith, 50.9 percent; Hamilton, 50.8 percent; Harlan, 50.5 percent; Garden, 50.3 percent; Perkins, 50.2 percent; Lancaster, 50.1 percent; Cheyenne, 50 percent.
DMV records indicated that 69 Nebraska counties have a donor designation rate between 40 and 49.9 percent. Nationwide, there are 94.7 million designated donors, or 40 percent of the U.S. population over age 18, according to Donate Life America.
Those wishing to learn more and register as donors can visit www.DonateLifeNebraska.com, or choose the option when applying for or renewing their Nebraska driver’s license.