Organization working to boost organ donation among minorities

Las Vegas Review Journal | Michael Lyle

Arlett Valencia, who has to undergo dialysis daily to survive, has been on the organ transplant list three years waiting for a new kidney and pancreas. ERIK VERDUZCO/LAS VEGAS REVIEW-JOURNAL Follow him

Arlett Valencia crosses another date off her mental calendar, counting the days she has been waiting for a kidney and pancreas transplant.

"It has been 1,156 days," she says as she sets up her daily dialysis — the machine that has kept her alive since her kidneys started to fail. "If you would have told me three years ago I would still be waiting, I wouldn't have believed you."

Valencia is not waiting alone.

In Nevada, there are 558 people waiting on an organ transplant list, including 76 African-Americans, 119 Hispanics, 78 Asians and 12 American Indians.

Alma Rodriguez, multicultural coordinator with the Nevada Donor Network, says many of these donations are tied to other health issues prevalent in minority communities such as high blood pressure, high cholesterol and diabetes.

But as Valencia, 36, has discovered, despite being affected disproportionately, the number of minorities who register to be donors is surprisingly low.

There are 880,450 registered donors in Nevada, but registration is low among minority communities.

Rodriguez says the organization currently doesn't have the number of registered donors broken down by ethnicity but is working to find out. Continue reading