Donate an organ, save a life

LUFKIN, TX (KTRE) - Over 99,000 people across the country, more than 8,000 of them from right here in Texas, are on the waiting list to receive an organ.

Most of those patients need a transplant to save their life.  Jeff Sulistio with LifeGift says that number is growing.

"17 people die every day waiting for an organ and every 13 minutes someone else is added to the list," says Sulistio.

In Texas, of the 8,363 people who are on the list, here is the breakdown by organ.

6,344 - Kidney
1,512 - Liver
47 - Pancreas
142 - Kidney/Pancreas
303 - Heart
159 - Lung
10 - Heart/Lung
4 - Intestine

August is Minority Donor Month to raise awareness, because more Hispanics and African American's are needed to give life. Gary Roberts from Nacogdoches needed a kidney transplant, and thanks to a donor, he's here to tell his story.

"Someone was involved in an accident and the family graciously donated his organs and that really gave me a new lease on life," says Roberts.

The most recent statistics available show 415 people died in Texas in 2006, waiting on an organ transplant. That's why hospital officials like Richard Fennell say it's so important to let your family know your intentions.

"Thousands of people die on the waiting list, just for kidneys alone.  So that would be a wonderful gift that we could give," says Fennell.

Or make it easy by registering on the state data-base.

"We are very fortunate in Texas.  A few years ago, Governor Rick Perry signed into legislation so it can be internet based," says Sulistio.

If you are having trouble deciding whether or not to donate, think about this.   Every person has eight potential life-saving organs, which means they could save up to eight lives!

It's not just organs that can go to good use; tissues, bones and eyes can also be used.

Experts say if everyone were a donor, there wouldn't be a waiting list at all.

"If you have some type of negative feeling where today you would say no, get the facts and don't base it on some type of myth," says Sulistio.

"It's so important that people look at this. Talk with your family and let them know your wishes. Because we never know when something will happen and you could change someone's life," says Roberts.

Last year, Memorial Health Systems of East Texas received a national award for donor organs.  Seven out of eight families decided to donate, giving the hospital an 87% success rate.

The national standard for excellence is a 75% success rate for donor families.

It only takes about five minutes to become a registered donor.  To do so, visit

For more on the number of people needing an organ, go to the Organ Procurement and Transplant Network website.