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North Carolina’s HonorBridge Has Record-Setting Year Despite Pandemic

HonorBridge staff photo outside with hands together
Saving and healing lives through organ and tissue donation. 1,295 tissue donors, a record number! 263 heart valves recovered, a record number. 290 organ donors! Which enabled: 819 organs to be transplanted. 712 lives saved.

As the pandemic continued to ravage our state and nation, the staff of HonorBridge accomplished significant milestones in 2021 including setting records for number of tissue donors and heart valves recovered, hitting the second-highest number of organ donors, and playing a key part in the United States breaking its single-year record of more than 40,000 transplants in 2021. The generosity and heroic spirit of the donors and their families coupled with the innovation and dedication of HonorBridge staff and partners made a difficult year a success.

Despite many hurdles and barriers, during 2021, HonorBridge staff:

  • Recovered tissues from a record 1,295 donors,
  • Recovered a record-breaking 263 heart valves,
  • Transplanted 819 organs recovered from 290 donors, the second-highest year ever for the number of organ donors,
  • Helped save 712 lives,
  • Conducted a virtual Donor Family Tribute that was viewed over 1,200 times,
  • Facilitated over 600 letters exchanged between donor families and recipients,
  • Conducted nearly 390 donation conversations with families,
  • Visited more than 300 funeral homes, and
  • Participated in more than 100 community activities.

Additionally, in March, HonorBridge broke ground for the new Chapel Hill office which is on track to open in fall of 2022. During the summer of 2021, HonorBridge was named a 2021 Business North Carolina’s Best Employer, given the Empowering Research and Discovery Award by the National Disease Research Interchange and the Association of Organ Procurement Organizations, and their legislation to improve the DMV donation process was unanimously passed by the North Carolina General Assembly and signed into law by Governor Cooper.

HonorBridge spent much of 2021 focused on innovation. They were one of only 15 Organ Procurement Organizations (OPOs) to test a newly launched United Network for Organ Sharing Organ Tracking Service, using devices attached to packaged organs that allow OPOs and transplant hospital staff the ability to follow an organ from recovery until it ultimately arrives at the transplant center. HonorBridge was also one of six OPOs to partner with TransMedics to increase the number of lungs available for transplant by utilizing their Organ Care System that keeps lungs warm and breathing as in the human body and allows for lungs to be monitored and transported greater distances.

Formally known as Carolina Donor Services, in August, the HonorBridge rebrand was announced that included not just the new name, but additionally a new logo, mission, vision, and values symbolic of their life-saving work.

“It was a remarkable year filled by amazing milestones accomplished despite the hurdles the continuing pandemic caused. The work to save and heal lives never wavered as we adjusted our approach to grieving families and our internal processes to address hospital requirements and COVID-19 testing and vaccination,” said Danielle Niedfeldt, RN, JD, President & CEO of Carolina Donor Services. “This new year presents even more opportunities for growth, to position HonorBridge as a top-tier organ recovery and tissue donation organization in the nation, and to continue honoring the heroic gifts of our donors and their families.

“Organ donation is rare,” said Niedfeldt. “While most of the population can be tissue donors at their time of death, less than 1% of total deaths result in organ donation. This is why our team works so incredibly hard to save lives and encourages everyone to say ‘yes’ to donation.”

Nationally, over 100,000 men, women, and children, including more than 3,000 North Carolinians, are waiting for lifesaving organ transplants. To register your decision to become an organ, eye, and tissue donor, visit Register as a Donor.