BY LAURA UNGAR | Courier-Journal
Connie Brumfield says her mother wouldn’t be alive today if someone hadn’t signed the back of a driver’s license, agreeing to become an organ donor.
Brumfield’s mother Rita Whitworth, 70, received a new liver almost four years ago after suffering from a condition that causes too much iron in the blood. Today, the Breckinridge County woman is able to cook Thanksgiving and Christmas dinners spend time with her four children, nine grandchildren and four great-grandchildren.
She’s one of many Kentuckians who have benefited from the Kentucky Organ Donor Registry, which is expected to hit 1 million names by Thursday.
“We were thrilled we were on the receiving end of this gift.…It was a life-saving organ,” said Brumfield, circuit court clerk in Breckinridge County, whose office issues driver’s licenses. “I think it’s fantastic to reach this milestone. We’re glad to be a part of it.”
Kentucky residents can join the registry at their circuit court clerk’s office or online atwww.donatelifeky.org. Clerks ask each person obtaining a license or state identification card if they would like to add their name to the registry. Joining it ensures that the person’s wishes will be carried out, as spelled out in Kentucky’s “First Person Consent law.”
The need for organs is great. A total of 286 successful organ transplants were performed in Kentucky in 2009, and 640 Kentuckians are now awaiting an organ. Nationally, a new name is added to the organ transplant waiting list every 10 minutes.
Organs that can be donated include heart, kidneys, liver, lungs, pancreas and small bowel. Donation may occur when someone is declared brain dead; Kentucky Organ Donor Affiliates defines this as the total irreversible cessation of all brain activity. Only about 1 percent of U.S. deaths each year progress to brain death.
Jan Murphree, circuit court clerk in Simpson County, said her husband became an organ donor when he died in December 2000, after a freight train collided with his pickup. William “Bill” Murphree, 46, was driving their daughter to a school function when his truck skidded on ice and onto railroad tracks. He managed to push his daughter to safety.
Jan Murphree, 53, said her husband had signed the registry, but it was difficult to think about organ donation just after he died because it was a reminder that he was truly gone. But later, when she got letters from people who received her husband’s organs and tissues, “it helped me know it was certainly the right thing to do.” Her husband helped six people.
“It is a life-changing and life-saving thing to do,” said Jan Murphree, who has two children. She called the donor milestone “absolutely awesome.”
Mark McGaha of Louisville, who received a kidney transplant in 2000 after high blood pressure led to renal failure, echoed those sentiments. McGaha, 58, received a living-donor transplant from his wife, Judy.
“It’s wonderful they’ve reached a million. We wonder why it’s taken this long,” McGaha said. “You would think it’s something people would do more readily.”
PLEASE REGISTER TO BE AN DONOR AT DONATE LIFE KENTUCKY