Currently, there are more than 112,000 men, women and children on the national transplant waiting list. Each one of these individuals is a mother, a father, a son, a daughter, a sister or a brother, and their illness affects the entire family. Their wait on the transplant list depends on the availability of an organ match. Unless they have a living donor, the average wait on the list is 5 to 7 years. The good news is that about 80 transplants are performed each day in the United States, resulting in 28,535 organ transplants in 2011. Now for the bad news: because so few people pass away under circumstances where organ donation is possible, 18 people die each DAY waiting for a transplant. This hit close to home last year when my daughter and her entire school lost a beloved athletic coach, Coach Q, as he waited for a kidney transplant.
I spend a lot of time at Children's Hospital Los Angeles, where the need for organ transplants is heartbreaking. I recently met Sara, a beautiful, smart and funny 13-year-old girl whose dream is to grow up to be a fashion designer. Unfortunately, Sara had to be taken off the list because she grew too sick waiting for a heart/lung transplant. I was told the odds are that she will not get well enough to be put back on the list. The wait is just too long. Then there is Omar, a precocious 10-year-old, who just had an artificial heart installed so he can stay alive and continue to wait on the transplant list. He is cheerful and upbeat and wants to be a magician. Over in the dialysis unit, Twilight-loving teenagers are surrounded by Team Edward and Team Jacob posters. Each of them is waiting for a kidney so that they will no longer have to be hooked up to a machine for three hours a day, three times a week.
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