Historic number of lives saved in 2017 thanks to organ donation

Published 8:29 am Thursday, February 1, 2018


Press release 

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Last year was a groundbreaking year in national and local efforts to save lives through organ donation. In the Kentucky region, 2017 marked the second highest number of lives saved. Thanks to 108 organ donors and their families, 361 organs were recovered and transplanted, and 330 tissue donors healed thousands of patients. 

Nationally, according to preliminary data from UNOS, 34,768 organ transplants were performed in 2017 provided by both deceased and living donors. This total is a 3.4-percent increase over 2016, and marks the fifth consecutive record-setting year for transplants in the United States. Nationally, the number of deceased organ donors in the United States surpassed 10,000 for the first time. For the year, organs were recovered from 10,281 donors, representing a 3.1-percent increase over 2016 and an increase of 27 percent since 2007.

More than 1.8 million Kentuckians are registered donors thanks to the support of circuit court clerks.

“As your circuit court clerk, I am dedicated to serving our community each and every day. Partnering with this lifesaving mission is one of the many ways we can help others. I’m proud of our deputies for asking every person obtaining a license or ID if they would like to donate $1 to increase education about donation. We also ask everyone to join the Organ Donor Registry. It only takes a moment to say ‘yes’ and be hope for patients in need,” Boyle Circuit Court Clerk Cortney Shewmaker said. 

Last year, 3,171 Boyle County residents donated $1 for public education about organ donation. In total, 13,612 Boyle County residents have joined the Organ Donor Registry.

Kentucky’s registration rate has grown quickly in recent years due to strategic public education efforts and a new Regional Training program. This year’s trainings featured keynote speakers Derek Fitzgerald, heart recipient and Ironman; and Shannon Adkins, donor mom. Eight trainings were held in four cities across the commonwealth — Owensboro, Frankfort, Paintsville and Somerset. Nearly 700 people attended, representing 85 circuit court clerk’s offices.

Since Fitzgerald received the gift that saved his life in 2011, he has used his heart to accomplish amazing things and honor his donor family. 

“Eight months after the heart transplant, I finished my very first 5K. Over the past five years, I’ve finished over 80 endurance events, including a bicycle ride across the country and five full Ironman triathlons. I’ve made it my life’s mission to honor my donor’s gift and live like my hero is watching. The most significant event to happen since my transplant is the birth of my daughter, because while I received the gift of life, she is a true miracle,” Fitzgerald said. 

For Adkins, keeping the memory of her son Keegan alive is of utmost importance and she said she enjoys sharing him with others. Keegan was able to save lives as an organ donor. 

“This year I began a new journey. One where Keegan will guide my every step,” said Adkins, who now works as a philanthropy officer. “I truly thank the Kentucky Circuit Court Clerks’ Trust for Life and Kentucky Organ Donor Affiliates for allowing me this opportunity to support donor and recipient families and educate others about the lifesaving mission of organ donation. God works in mysterious ways.”

“Although we may not be able to save a person’s life today, we are able to give hope simply by registering as a donor,” said Shewmaker. “Each day, 22 patients will lose their fight, and their life, waiting. Everyone can be hope. Together, we can end the wait.”

There is no age limit or health requirements for registering as a donor.  Everyone can register at www.RegisterMe.org or when you obtain your driver’s license or state ID.

Today, nearly 115,000 children and adults are on the national waiting list for their gift of life.