ATLANTA – The number of Hispanic organ donors in the United States has increased thanks to educational campaigns in Spanish, but this effort is still not sufficient given the need.
According to the United Network for Organ Sharing, 110,667 patients in the United States, including Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands, are waiting for a transplant.
Getting an organ is almost a miracle, according to Martina Castañeda, who three years ago received a kidney transplant.
“They told me about (Atlanta’s) Emory Hospital and said it had a gift from God for me, I was on a three-month waiting list. It was a blessing,” she tells Efe.
In Georgia at least 3,000 patients are waiting for an organ donation, says Carlos Castro, coordinator of the LifeLink organization’s link for Hispanic donors.
“In 2006, for every 60 people who said they wanted to be donors in Georgia, four were Latinos, which increased in 2010 to eight (out of every 60),” Castro says, adding that the main reason for such a low percentage of Latino donors was the lack of information and religiously based misconceptions.
Castro says that many Hispanics wonder if organ donors can rise again for the Last Judgment since their bodies are incomplete, to which the coordinator answers that, as the Catholic Church tells us, resurrection is spiritual and not physical.
Castañeda says she also heard that some people think that if they sign up as donors and have an accident, they’ll no doubt be killed to have their organs extracted.
But the lack of donors isn’t the only reason why many patients die waiting for an organ – the high cost of transplants is another obstacle to staying alive.
A heart transplant, for example, can cost as much as $287,000 depending on the hospital. And a kidney transplant can cost $51,000.
Castañeda lived through it all and at the same time saw how other patients were unable to wait long enough and died – that’s why she considers that the best gift she ever received was the kidney from the donor’s family that gave her a second chance.
“My life changed, now I can do things I couldn’t do when I was on dialysis, things like swimming and going to the beach. Now it’s happiness itself to be in a swimming pool,” she says.
Castro says that though the number of Hispanic donors in the United States has increased thanks to educational campaigns in Spanish, the lack of a real donor culture has made the increase of names on this list go very slow.
He says that whoever wants to help save a life can do so with a donor card.
“You don’t need a Social Security number or an American passport. Just put down your information, where you live, your name, and, where it says identity document, put the number of your passport from your country of origin or your consular registration number,” he says. EFE