Doctors encourage people to become living donors as thousands wait for organ transplants

GREENVILLE, SC (WSPA) – Monday is National Donor Day and more than 100,000 Americans are on organ donation waiting lists.

“It’s an amazing thing to give this gift,” said Dr. Todd Merchen, director of the Prisma Health Transplant Center.

The kidney transplant waiting list is the longest with more than 90,000 people in need.

“We have a huge organ shortage and so anything we can do to educate the public and let them know about the problem that exists for people who are desperate for an organ is something we want to play a leading role in.” , Merchen said.

Prisma Health doctors hope to raise awareness of the need for living donors and said it’s even more important in South Carolina.

Doctors said rates of certain diseases, like diabetes and high blood pressure, which affect your kidneys, are higher in the state.

“Frankly, we have one of the highest densities of people with kidney disease. We have a very big problem with people with kidney failure,” Merchen said.

Although becoming a living donor is a big decision, they said the process can be simple.

“We are blessed with two kidneys,” said Dr. Keith Superdock, co-director of the Prisma Health Transplant Center. “We are blessed with 10 times more kidney function than any of us need to stay healthy.”

Dr Superdock said people with no major health conditions and normal kidney function can donate one of their kidneys. First, donors will review their medical history, take health tests, and learn about the process. They must also be willing to freely donate their kidney.

“I just felt like it was something God wanted me to do,” said Jodi Schirtz, a living kidney donor.

Schirtz made her choice when she donated to a family friend in May 2009.

“May 1 will be 13 years, she’s never had rejection,” Schirtz said. “It’s like it was just meant to be his.”

Doctors said if more people signed up to donate, it would improve and prolong life.

“It would have such an impact on the waiting list that 100 donors would reduce our waiting list by 10% statewide, dramatically reduce the time the average person has to wait for a kidney, and be a blessing to so many of people,” says Superdock.

Merchen said that in South Carolina, the average wait time for a kidney is about five to seven years. He said the first kidney donation at the new transplant center will take place in a few weeks.

He encourages those interested in becoming a donor to reach out. They can speak with a Living Donor Coordinator by calling 864-455-1770 or find more information online.

People can also become a deceased giver. Donate Life SC said one organ donation could potentially save 8 lives.

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