In the wake of Alonzo Mourning's announcement that he would retire from the NBA due to complications with kidney failure and that he would need a transplant, dozens of people called hospitals to offer their own kidneys. While this outpouring of concern and desire to help are true showings of philanthropy, why did these people not come forward earlier to help others in need of a transplant, those who do not earn millions each year?

This is not to say that Mourning does not deserve a transplant; anyone who needs one certainly does, regardless of his or her celebrity status. However, just because a famous face needs an organ donation doesn't mean thousands of others in need should be neglected.

More than 82,000 people across the United States await an organ transplant; more than 56,000 of those are kidney patients. Some patients wait longer than five years before a perfect match is found and a successful transplant is performed. Why wait for a celebrity to need an organ when there are many others out there who could use your help to stay alive?

According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, 68 people receive an organ transplant each day, but another 18 people on the waiting list die because not enough organs are available. Every 14 minutes, a name is added to the national transplant waiting list. But there are enough organs out there- donors just aren't offering.

Potential donors may not be offering because they simply don't want to, but many people may not even be aware that they can help save someone's life. An organ donation does not have to come from someone who has died; although the majority of donations come from deceased donors, living donors are quite common. Last year, more than 4,500 organ donations were made by living donors in the U.S. In Oregon, 86 living donors donated organs in 2003 compared to 58 deceased organ donations.

Too many people are waiting for donor organs, and too many people who can help, and want to, aren't helping because they are not educated on how to do so.

The most important thing to remember when becoming a donor is to tell your family and loved ones. Also, have the Department of Motor Vehicles mark that you would like to be an organ donor on your driver's license.

Talk to a local transplant agency about becoming a donor if living donation is something you would like to do. Kidneys are the most common living organ donation, but partial livers, lungs and pancreases can also be donated through a living donor.

In Oregon, there are three hospitals - all in Portland - that perform organ transplants: Legacy Good Samaritan Hospital, Providence Medical Center and Oregon Health & Science University.

While becoming a donor can be a scary process that can take several weeks to recover from, the thought that you can save the life of another person should bypass any fears. Though donors may never meet the person whose life they saved, they can be sure there is an appreciative family out there who could never thank them enough.

Organ donation is one of the greatest gifts a person can give. In this season of giving, why not contact a transplant center to find out how you can help save a person and give the gift of life.

For more information about organ donation, log onto the Coalition on Donation at, or the DHS transplant site at

Casey White's mother has been on a transplant waiting list for a kidney for five years. A reporter in the East Oregonian's Pendleton office, Casey can be reached at (800) 522-0255 (ext. 1-227 after hours) or by e-mail at

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