Give The Gift Of Life...Donors Needed

You are less likely to receive a lifesaving organ transplant if you live in the Texas Panhandle than if you lived in a bigger city. 

A  new study found it 20 percent less likely.  So some people aren't getting the liver, heart and kidney transplants they need. The local LifeGift office says there are some reasons for that. One being time, it's critical to get the organs transplanted within a number of hours. 

"It can take up to 24 hours from the time we start making calls before we actually have a time set for an operating room.  Donation Clinical Specialist Mia Hunter said.

In addition to time, Hunter says distance really hurts panhandle residents. 

"A lot of times, it does make it difficult because we don't have any transplant hospitals here, neither one of our hospitals do transplant, so the closest facility are the Lubbock, U.M.C. and Covenant hospitals." 

In Lubbock only kidneys are transplanted.  So if your looking for a heart or lungs, you have to go even further.

You have the power to donate life and Panhandle residents are suffering because of a critical shortage of local organ donors. Several hundred people in need of kidneys, hearts, lungs, and various other organ and tissue transplants.  If you checked donor on your driver's license that doesn't mean you  are a donor. The Department of Public Safety will send you information and you register online for it to be valid.

Hunter says if you are not a donor they have to get permission from your family if a accident does happen.

"Even though this is something so terrible that happened to their loved one, we show then how they can give the gift of life to someone else. So something positive comes out of such a horrible situation."

Hunter says there's usually a high consent rate. The issues of time, distance, and the shortage of local donor's are leaving Texas Panhandle residents waiting longer for life saving organ transplants, most waiting for kidney's.
Eddie Ortega has been waiting for a kidney for about six months. He goes to dialysis three days a week. Which he says takes a major toll on his body. 

"It really restricts what kind of physical things you can do. For example mowing my yard, and I have a average sized yards..two strokes and I have to sit down because I'm out of breath."
He says it also takes a toll on his family and keeps him from having a normal life. 

"My little boy likes to play softball and football and all I can really do is sit on the sideline and watch. If I can get to the park. If I'm well feeling well enough to get to his game."
Many people like Eddie are waiting for organ transplants. He says the call can come at anytime, but that doesn't mean he'll come home with a new kidney.

"They'll call three people at one time. A number one a number two and a number three. In case number one doesn't match number two is ready to go."
LifeGift, Amarillo's local organ donation center says more people need to become donors and Eddie says that simple gesture could give someone the gift of life. 

"You wouldn't thinks so because I'm alive and functioning somewhat, but it really is, it's a second chance at life."

If you decide you want to become an organ's how. 

Go to You can be any age to register and you do not have to be in perfect health. Decide what type of donor you want to be organ, eye, tissue or all. Remember just because you checked donor on your drivers license does not mean you are a donor, you must be registered online.  And share your plans to be a donor with your family even if you don't register.