NE Ohio donors breathe life into LifeBanc


In 2008, the number of organ and tissue donors continued to increase over previous years.

STAFF REPORT

CLEVELAND — LifeBanc, the federally designated nonprofit organ and tissue recovery agency for Northeast Ohio, helped save and heal more than 24,000 lives in 2008 because some 600 people donated organs and tissues last year.

The Northeast Ohio region consists of 20 counties, including Columbiana, Mahoning and Trumbull.

“LifeBanc ... works closely with 80 hospitals and two transplant centers to convert eligible organ donors to actual organ donors,” said Gordon Bowen, LifeBanc chief executive officer.

LifeBanc converted 77 percent of potential donors to actual donors in 2008, a 9 percent increase over 2007 and a 20 percent increase since 2005. During seven months in 2008, LifeBanc met or exceeded the national conversion rate goal of 75 percent, including December when LifeBanc’s conversion rate was 100 percent, Bowen said.

Unfortunately, the number of organs viable for transplant has decreased. LifeBanc transplanted 2.77 organs per donor, which is below the national goal of 3.75 per donor, he said.

While organ donors were not as healthy as in past years, the number of organ and tissue donors continued to increase over previous years, resulting in 308 life-saving transplants involving 111 donor families, Bowen said.

Additionally, LifeBanc recovered tissue from a record-breaking 507 local donors, a 60 percent increase over the year prior.

A single tissue donor can heal up to 50 people, resulting in thousands of Northeast Ohio residents’ receiving corneas to restore sight, heart valves to replace damaged ones, bone and ligaments to repair diseased or injured joints and skin for burn victims.

Through the third quarter of 2008, some 50 percent of LifeBanc’s organ and tissue donors were those who had signed up on the Ohio Donor Registry, Bowen said.

Also last year, the percentage of registered organ and tissue donors in LifeBanc’s service area reached an all-time high.

In December 2008, 52.9 percent of all Northeast Ohio licensed drivers and state ID holders were registered organ and tissue donors, a 1.7 percent increase over the previous year. In Ohio, 281,240 new registrants were added to the Ohio Donor Registry, and 98,185 of those new registrants are from Northeast Ohio. More than 4.7 million Ohioans have become designated donors since December 2004, he said.

LifeBanc was also instrumental in the support and passage of the Uniform Anatomical Gift Act. Ohio became the 34th state to pass the revised UAGA, which updated the 40-year-old legislation. The law reflects the current environment in which the donation process operates by supporting the Ohio Donor Registry and upholds individual autonomy by clarifying the ability to make a legal personal decision for the donation of organs, tissue and eyes at the time of death.

Nationally, some 100,000 women, children and men are waiting for life-saving organ transplants across the country; the number is 1,600 in Northeast Ohio.

For information on how to become a registered organ and tissue donor, visit www.lifebanc.org.

alcorn@vindy.com

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