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Record number of organ donors save lives in 2021

2021 Year-End Metrics

Organ and tissue donation trending up across the U.S.  

Gift of Life Michigan again honored the generosity of a record number of organ donors in 2021, saving and healing thousands of lives despite the continuing challenge of the Covid-19 pandemic.

In total, 1,089 organs were transplanted from 429 donors, which represents about a 14% increase in donors over 2020. Also, 1,464 people donated tissue and more than 290,000 names were added to the Michigan Organ Donor Registry.

“This is a testament to the dedication of our hard-working staff, our hospital partners and, of course, our selfless donors and their families – they are the true heroes,” said Dorrie Dils, President and CEO of Gift of Life Michigan. “It is inspiring to see so many people choose this final act of incredible generosity to save and help improve the lives of people they never met.”

The state trend reflects an overall increase in organ donation and transplantations across the country. According to the United Network for Organ Sharing (UNOS), 41,354 organ transplants were performed in the United States last year, an increase of 5.9% over 2020. It was the first time the annual total topped 40,000. UNOS figures indicate there were 24,669 kidney transplants, 9,236 liver transplants and 3,817 heart transplants in the U.S., all new records 

Dils said she is pleased more people are signing up as donors and acknowledged there is still more work to do. As of Jan. 1, there were 2,517 people waiting for transplants in Michigan, with about 106,000 waiting nationwide. Twenty people die every day waiting for a life-saving transplant in the U.S., and someone is added to the national list, on average, about every 10 minutes.

While the number of Michigan organ donors jumped significantly; the number of organs transplanted did not. In 2020, 1,048 organs were transplanted from 374 donors, compared to 1,089 transplanted from 429 donors in 2021. Dils said the increased utilization of gifted organs remains a challenge throughout the country.

“We are investing in new technology to keep organs viable longer,” she said. “We have streamlined the donation process from referral to transplant and expanded our team so that no opportunity for donation is missed.”

Gift of Life remains committed to increasing the number of registered donors, as well as improving processes that will make those precious gits more viable. Last year, Gift of Life Michigan joined the Association of Organ Procurement Organizations (AOPO) in its commitment to help facilitate 50,000 transplants by 2026. Plans are underway to hire more staff at Gift of Life to increase outreach efforts, work more seamlessly with Michigan’s 175 hospitals and ensure all possibilities for organ and tissue donation are pursued.

“We will work hard, every day, to push for One More: one more person registered, one more life saved, one more donor honored,” Dils said. “Our ultimate goal is that no one will die while waiting for a life-saving transplant. With our dedicated staff, hospital and transplant center partners, the support of the community and, most of all, the incredible generosity of our donors and their families, I know we will get there.”

To sign up as a donor, visit golm.org/register.

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