ROCHESTER, MInn. - It's an ongoing problem across America, the opioid epidemic. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, nearly 40,000 people died from a prescription or illegal opioid overdose in 2016. New research from John Hopkins University shows that organ donations from overdose victims have drastically increased since the early 2000's. The study showed in 2016, there were more than 3,500 transplants using overdose related donated organs, a number significantly up from just 149 transplants in 2000.
What is interesting to note is that LifeSource, a non-profit focused on eye, organ and tissue donation, said while the number of opioid related deaths have increased in the Midwest, the number of organ donors directly related to those overdoses have not. Overdose donation is a trend they are statistically seeing more on the coasts.
One of the hundreds of thousands of patients waiting for a transplant is here at St. Mary's Hospital in Rochester. Thirty-four year-old Rebecca Imhoff has spent the last 300-plus days at the hospital.
"Been waiting for a heart," explained Imhoff.
She has been on the transplant list for more than two years. Born with Congenital Heart Defect, Imhoff has been a fighter since birth.
"I can't go home. I have to stay in the hospital until I get my transplant," said Imhoff.
While Imhoff is convinved that miracles do happen, the reality is that they don't always happen fast enough for some of the patients.
Director of Mayo Clinic's Transplant Center, Dr. Charles Rosen, shared grim statistics, "We estimate that about 20-people die each day off of the national waiting list without getting an organ".
According to the United Network for Organ Sharing, (UNOS), almost 115,000 people are nationally waiting for the gift of life. UNOS updates their website daily, which has a search option to look at how many people are in need of a particular organ nationally or specific to a state. Imhoff is 1 of 85 people in Minnesota in need of a new heart.
She told KIMT she stays busy by going to her support group and walking to stay strong. In the future, once she receives a new heart, her goal is to live more independently.
"To do stuff that I wouldn't be able to do because of my heart condition like have a job, make money for myself," said Imhoff.
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