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S.C. Campaigns To Increase Organ, Tissue Donations

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File photo of a cooler used to transport organs. (Photo by Sean Gallup/Getty Images)

File photo of a cooler used to transport organs. (Photo by Sean Gallup/Getty Images)

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COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) — South Carolina has about 1,000 people waiting for organ transplants, and several of the state’s leaders, including Gov. Nikki Haley, want to increase the chances of finding possible donors.

Haley joined representatives from several groups at the Statehouse in Columbia on Wednesday and announced a campaign to double the number of potential donors on the state’s organ and tissue registry.

South Carolina ranks 45th in the nation with a donor designation rate of about 20 percent, officials said.

The campaign is being organized by the nonprofit registry group known as Donate Life South Carolina, the state Department of Motor Vehicles and LifePoint, an organ and donation services group.

DMV Executive Director Kevin Shwedo said more than 98 percent of the 1.3 million listed people in the state’s registry signed up through the state DMV. As part of the new campaign, Shwedo said DMV employees have been given special instructions on how to answer questions from citizens about the voluntary registry.

“We need more organ, eye and tissue donors,” Shwedo said. “This is something that really will save lives in the state of South Carolina.”

Last year, about 100 people in the state donated more than 360 transplanted organs upon their death, according to figures provided by Donate Life South Carolina. There were 342 tissue donors and 428 eye donors, said the organization’s spokesman Mark Johnson.

Potential donors may indicate whether they would allow for the donation of several or one of their organs, as well as various tissues, so the donor numbers may overlap, he said.

For example, one person may save the lives of up to eight people with organ donations, and improve the lives of 50 or more with tissue donations.

About 90 percent of the people in South Carolina waiting for organs need a kidney, the group said.

Nationally, about 121,000 people are waiting on transplant lists. On average, about 19 people die each day waiting for a life-saving transplant.

Most needed are kidneys, livers, pancreases and hearts. Transplantable tissues include blood, blood vessels, bones, bone marrow, cartilage, connective tissues, eyes, heart valves and skin, Johnson said.

Shwedo said in an interview that he knows two employees in the DMV who’ve benefited by organ donations, and he has become convinced the state can increase its numbers.

This Friday, staffers at the DMV offices are going to wear special polo shirts with the DMV logo on it, as well as a Donate Life insignia on the arm, Shwedo said.

“We want everyone to keep thinking, ‘Donate life!’ ” Shwedo said.

Potential donors have a red heart surrounded by a small circle on their driver’s licenses. If they care to make special directions in the Donate Life registry, they may do so on its website.

(© Copyright 2013 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

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