ROCHESTER, Minn. - More than 107,000 Americans are waiting for an organ transplant and 20 people die every day while waiting.
While 95% of Americans say they would like to be a donor, only 58% are actually registered. That's according to doctors at Mayo Clinic. KIMT News 3 spoke with one surgeon who said while families grieve the loss of a loved one, there's comfort in knowing another a life is saved. "On one side, it's a little bit of a morbid and families have lost family members, but have offered to donate their organs," explained Dr. Ian Makey. "That's always in your mind. But then you're giving people a lot of good years with their new organs."
Dr. Peter Smars is a doctor at Mayo Clinic. He's spent 30 years of his life treating patients when one day, he became the patient himself. He explained he now owes everything to his faith, organ donation and Mayo Clinic.
Dr. Smars was diagnosed with Idiopathic Pulmonary Fibrosis and was told no one with this lives beyond two years. He was immediately put on the transplant waiting list through Mayo Clinic in Rochester for a new lung. Eight months later, he was on the Jacksonville waiting list where he received the life changing call.
Dr. Smars and his wife hopped on the plane to Florida and he got a brand new lung from Dr. Makey. He explained because this one person was an organ donor, his life was saved. "I cannot express the gratitude that I have in words," he said. "To sign up as a donor, I think the more we can encourage people to do that, the better it is because it is literally life giving to us that needs it."
The Plummer Building in downtown Rochester will be lit up in blue and green for National Blue and Green Day on Friday. It's a day to encourage people to wear those colors and bring awareness to the need for organ donation. April is National Donate Life Month. If you're wanting to become a donor, you can click here.