Howard Nathan and Susan Stuart: Thanks to PennDOT for saving lives
Like most Pennsylvanians, you may not think often about PennDOT or your local driver’s license center, except when you need to renew your driver’s license. That is, unless you are among the 8,000 Pennsylvanians waiting for a life-saving organ transplant.
In addition to providing essential services to millions of Pennsylvanians — in the second quarter of this year alone, that number was nearly 10 million — your local PennDOT center is helping to save lives every day.
PennDOT centers are where 95 percent of Pennsylvanians who register to be organ and tissue donors sign up. Where Pennsylvanians say “yes” to potentially saving a life.
That’s why we want all Pennsylvanians to take a moment to recognize the men and women at PennDOT, as part of national DMV Appreciation Week. The commitment of Department of Motor Vehicles employees to asking each customer to register as an organ, tissue and cornea donor gives hope to those among us who are waiting for a second chance at life.
The PennDOT centers are critical to the success of donation and life-saving transplants in Pennsylvania. Pennsylvania was one of the first states to have such a registry. It started in 1995 and now has 4.8 million people registered. However, this is still not enough.
Nearly all Pennsylvanians say they support organ donation, but less than half are registered as donors. And in Pennsylvania — where someone dies every 18 hours waiting for an organ transplant — supporting them is what drives the mission of our organizations every day. It should also drive more of us to register as organ donors. We all have the unique opportunity to potentially help save the life of a neighbor, a child or simply a fellow Pennsylvanian in need.
As you would expect, organ donation rates vary across the state. In this region, Butler County has the highest rate of organ donation registration per registered drivers at 54.65 percent, thanks to the work of the PennDOT centers and the many who have registered. Sadly, 41 of our 67 counties have registration rates per registered drivers below 50 percent.
We are working to increase organ donor registration rates to 100 percent in all counties. We often hear people say they need more information or haven’t thought about it much beyond the request made at their local PennDOT center.
We hope to change that this week as volunteers and staff from Philadelphia’s Gift of Life and Pittsburgh’s Center for Organ Recovery & Education are out talking to people and sharing information at PennDOT centers across the state, as well as celebrating the DMV’s unsung role in our mission to register all eligible Pennsylvanians as donors.
We encourage you to stop by your local PennDOT center to pick up information and register to be an organ donor. Or, you can learn more and register in just a few seconds, any time, day or night, on the statewide Donate Life PA website (www.donatelifepa.org/registration).
We would like to leave you with a final thought. The next time you are standing in line at the grocery store or PennDOT center, please stop and think of the 8,000 Pennsylvanians waiting for a transplant, 1,000 of whom have been waiting for more than five years. Imagine waiting in line and feeling sicker with each passing day, or holding the hand of a loved one as he or she waits for a chance at the gift of life. What would you do to make that line shorter?
Together, we have the power to make that happen. If you haven’t already, we urge you to register to be a donor today. If you are registered, thank you, and please encourage others.
Howard Nathan is CEO of the Gift of Life Donor Program. Susan Stuart is CEO of the Center for Organ Recovery & Education ( www.core.org ). Donate Life Pennsylvania is a collaborative initiative between the two organizations and the Pennsylvania Departments of Health and Transportation.