Thanks to the generous gift of life from organ and tissue donors and their families, the number of donors and transplants performed in the first half of 2020 in North Carolina reached all-time highs. North Carolina’s organ and tissue recovery organizations, HonorBridge and LifeShare Carolinas, have announced that despite COVID-19, more North Carolinians are alive today because of their actions. A record 213 deceased organ donors saved 601 lives. This was a 18% increase in organ donors and a 12% increase in lives saved over the same time frame in 2019. Though there was a slight 6% decrease in tissue donors from the previous year, there was a 15% increase in total tissues recovered. The state’s eye recovery organizations, LifeShare Carolinas and Miracles in Sight, were greatly impacted by COVID-19 as corneal transplants were considered an elective surgery. As a result, cornea donation was halted temporarily, and the state’s eye banks saw a 29% decrease from the past year.
While deceased organ transplant surgeries were deemed essential, COVID-19 impacted the North Carolina recovery organizations in other ways. Hospitals enforced stricter requirements, families were separated from their dying loved ones, all potential donors who tested COVID-19 positive were medically ruled out, and elective surgeries for tissue, corneal, and living organ transplants were postponed. Another major impact came when a large number of North Carolina DMV offices were temporarily closed. The DMV is where 99% of registered organ, eye, and tissue donors make that decision. This resulted in a drop in the number of people signing up as donors.
“Quickly, we realized that we needed to change our approach to grieving families and our internal processes to address hospital requirements and COVID-19 testing,” said Danielle Niedfeldt, RN, JD, president & CEO of HonorBridge. “Throughout all of it, families were strongly committed to their loved one’s decisions to be donors. And, when a decision was not known, many families said “yes” to donation because they wanted something positive to come from such a difficult time.”
“We are proud of our accomplishments and our ability to facilitate these generous gifts of life,” said Michael Daniels, Executive Director/CEO of LifeShare Carolinas. “This was a team effort to save lives that includes our staff, board of directors, donor hospitals, transplant centers, DMV, Donate Life North Carolina, and most importantly our donors and their families.”
“These numbers are a testament to those who say “yes” to donation and all the partners who work so hard to make donation and transplantation possible,” Daniels continued. “Still, more must be done. The rate of North Carolinians who have registered as donors, 54%, is below the national average of 59%. That is something we are always working to improve across the state.”
“Organ donation is rare,” said Niedfeldt. “While most of the population can be tissue donors at their time of death, only a little more than ½ of a percent of total deaths result in organ donation. This why our teams work so incredibly hard to save lives.”
Nationally, over 109,000 men, women, and children, including more 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.
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HonorBridge is the federally-designated, not-for-profit organ and tissue donation organization serving 7.2 million people in 77 counties of North Carolina and Danville, Virginia. With offices in Durham, Greenville, and Winston-Salem, HonorBridge maximizes the passing of the heroic gift of life from one human being to another through organ and tissue donation. For more information, visit HonorBridge.org.
About LifeShare Carolinas
LifeShare Carolinas is proud to fulfill our mission of giving hope, life, and healing in 23 counties in North Carolina. Founded in 1970, our core purpose is to save lives by coordinating the recovery and distribution of lifesaving organs, eyes, and tissue for transplantation and research. With offices in Charlotte and Asheville, we serve 2.8 million people in the state. We also provide education to hospital staff and community partners about the donation process. For the courageous families whose loved ones gave the gift of life, we provide grief counseling and ongoing support through our Bridge to Healing program. For more information, visit LifeShareCarolinas.org.