Gift of Life Michigan breaks record for organ donors in a year

2023: A RECORD YEAR; 500 organ donors

Unprecedented 500 donors save lives so far in 2023

Michigan’s organ and tissue donation program has broken another record by reaching the 500 organ donors mark in a single year with more than a month remaining.


The number of organ donors has been rising year over year, giving more hope to the 2,400-plus patients waiting for life-saving transplants in the state.


By comparison, Gift of Life Michigan helped a record 463 organ donors and their families give their final gifts in 2022. In 2021, the number stood at 429.


This year’s donors have so far resulted in more than 1,200 organs transplanted, saving the lives of hundreds of critically ill patients in Michigan and beyond.


 “Michigan’s latest milestone is incredibly meaningful. I’m in awe of those 500 donors and their families who decided that helping others was important to them,” said Dorrie Dils, president and CEO of Gift of Life, the country’s 11th-largest federally designated organ procurement organization. “They have given their recipients the best gift – new life. As we approach Thanksgiving, we know how grateful they must be.”


Many of them were running out of time, she said. Their lives literally depended on people understanding that becoming organ, eye or tissue donors is life-altering for people who receive their gifts.


People like Sherry Johnson of Farmington, who received a heart and kidney transplant at Michigan Medicine in late October. She went home last week after 96 days waiting for and recovering from her double transplant from a single donor.


“I am home. I am healthy and happy and there won’t be an empty seat at my family’s Thanksgiving dinner table this week,” she said. “I’m thinking about and thanking my donor, my unknown hero. How does one honor someone who would do that for me? Together, we will do great things.”


More than 4.5 million adults in this state have joined the Michigan Organ Donor Registry and have a red heart on their driver’s license or state ID, indicating their decision to donate organs and tissue.  


Gift of Life is in the midst of a statewide campaign called Check Your Heart. It urges residents to check to see if they have the heart on their license or state ID indicating their decision to donate. If not, billboards, social media posts and TV spots ask residents to look within themselves to consider taking the next step to register. 


The Michigan Organ Donor Registry is growing slowly and not fast enough to help Michigan eliminate its waiting list. Dils asks all Michiganders who haven’t signed up to consider doing so.


“So many Michiganders are connected to someone who gave or someone who is waiting for a new heart, liver or lungs,” Dils said. “Those organs come from kind people who make deliberate decisions to help save the lives of others. The need is great.” 


To register, visit any Secretary of State branch office, or go to golm.org/register. 


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