UW Health experts encourage community members to register as organ, eye and tissue donors

Madison, Wis. – This April, UW Health marks the 20th anniversary of National Donate Life Month, which each year highlights the importance of registering to be a donor, honors deceased and living donors and celebrates the lives they saved.

Currently, there are more than 100,000 adults and children awaiting organ transplants in the United States, including 1,471 people in Wisconsin and 3,839 people in Illinois, according to Donate Life America. Unfortunately, many of these people will never receive a second chance at life, as more than 17 people die each day on the waiting list, according to Michael Anderson, executive director, University of Wisconsin Organ and Tissue Donation.

“We encourage everyone to take a moment to register as an organ and tissue donor online or at the DMV," Anderson said. “Then talk about your decision with your loved ones. Making your own decision now can ease a burden for your loved ones should you ever be in a position to become a donor hero.”

Nationwide in 2022, more than 42,000 transplants from 21,300 donors brought renewed life to patients and their families. In Wisconsin, that included 691 transplants from 407 donors and in Illinois, that included 2,020 transplants from 859 donors.

“We see firsthand the life-changing impact an organ transplant can have on a patient and their family,” said Samantha Taylor, senior donation support specialist, UW Organ and Tissue Donation. “Our goal this month, and throughout the year, is to increase the chance that those people who are waiting for a transplant will get one.”

A new person is added to the national transplant waiting list every 9 minutes, while the process to register as an organ donor takes less than a minute, according to Taylor.

To register to become an eye, tissue and organ donor visit heroicdeed.com or do so at the local DMV.

“It is the generosity of donors and donor families that makes saving lives through transplantation possible,” Anderson said.

Some important facts about organ, eye and tissue donation, according to Donate Life America:

  • A single organ donor can save up to eight lives while a single tissue donor can help more than 75 people.

  • Anyone can be a potential donor, regardless of age, race or medical history.

  • Kidneys are the organ in greatest demand with nearly 89,000 people across the nation awaiting one followed by liver, heart and lungs.

  • Living donation is an option for both kidney and liver transplantation.

  • People of color make up approximately 60% of individuals on the national organ transplant waiting list. Because transplant is often more successful when organs are matched between people of the same racial or ethnic background, these diverse communities are in great need of more organ and tissue donors.

  • More than 170 million people nationwide are registered organ, eye and tissue donors.