Michigan/Ohio State rivalry extends to organ donation
One of the biggest rivalries in the United States is the keenly felt competition between the football teams of the University of Michigan and Ohio State University. The two Big Ten rivals meet at the Columbus OH stadium of OSU on November 27 in what promises to be yet another historic matchup. The rivalry extends off the football field too, as evidenced by an annual challenge issued by U-M to its Ohio rival in an organ donation contest.
Football coach Rich Rodriguez of U-M encouraged organ donations at a recent press conference in Ann Arbor MI. Andrew Majors was just five months old when his family brought him to University of Michigan physicians, worried that something was very wrong with their tiny baby. His parents got devastating news: Andrew’s liver and kidneys were not functioning properly. He would need not just one, but two transplants to survive. “They told us he needed a new kidney and we were devastated,” said Andrew’s father, Greg Majors. “Then they told us he needed a new liver as well, and we were floored.” Little Andrew got a new kidney and a new liver, thanks to a young organ donor.
Doctors at the University of Michigan performed the transplant on Andrew when he was a year old – one of the youngest people to receive a combined liver-kidney transplant at that time. Today, Andrew is 16 years old and thriving. He appeared with U-M Football Coach Rich Rodriguez at a Nov. 22 press conference to highlight the need for organ donations, a cause that Rodriguez has promoted this season. “Because of a donor, I’m still around,” says Andrew, who is a rabid football fan and manager of his varsity team at Eisenhower High School in Shelby Township, Mich. Coach Rodriguez, along with U-M Health System leaders, has encouraged participation in an annual organ donation challenge between U-M and Ohio State.
The annual Wolverine-Buckeye challenge encourages people to sign up to be organ donors and have their pledge tallied for their favorite school. “Andrew is a great example of the impact that organ donation can have. You can save a life. Or the life somebody saves may be someone close to you,” says Rodriguez, learned the importance of organ donation when a member of his staff was saved by an organ transplant while coaching in West Virginia. “There are over 108,000 people waiting for a transplant. That would fill the entire Big House.” A single organ and tissue donor can save eight lives and help up to 50 people, says Jeffrey Punch, M.D., U-M’s Jeremiah and Claire Turcotte Professor of Transplantation Surgery and Chief of the U-M Division of Transplantation.
U-M has one of the oldest and largest transplantation programs in the country and U-M surgeons perform transplants of hearts, lungs, pancreas, livers, kidneys, and corneas. About 400 to 450 transplants are done at U-M annually, mostly kidney transplants followed by liver, heart, lung and pancreas. “Signing up on the registry ensures that the desire to donate is respected,” Punch says. “There is no downside to donation. The organs are donated after death. For many donor families, it is a very meaningful experience to know that even in death their loved ones are doing good.” “We can’t make life last forever. Most people want their death to have some meaning.”
The Wolverine-Buckeye challenge puts the spotlight on a worthy cause and allows us to show our school spirit, says Tony Denton, Executive Director of University Hospitals and Chief Operating Officer, U-M Hospitals and Health Centers. “No matter who wins the challenge, however, the real winners will be the people who rely on these life-saving gifts,” Denton says. Since its inception in 2006, the Wolverine-Buckeye challenge has inspired thousands of donors to register.
As of Nov. 18, the tally for this year’s challenge stands at Michigan: 69,967 and Ohio 49,822. Greg Majors, Andrew’s dad, says it’s impossible to put into words the gratitude he feels each time he looks at his son. His family tries to always remember the little girl whose organs made Andrew’s life possible and has placed flowers on the altar in her honor at their church. “I don’t know how you express thanks for something like that,” says Greg Majors. “He’s had a second chance. He’s a great kid, very bright. I just hope he can grow up to pay back society for the wonderful gift he’s been given.”