U.S. reaches historic milestone of 1 million organ transplants

Graphic celebrating 1 million organ transplants, with Gift of Life Michigan and United Network for Organ Sharing logos

Gift of Life Michigan joins national ‘Living it Forward’ initiative to advance next million

Ann Arbor, MI – The U.S. organ donation system has made history, surpassing 1 million organ transplants, according to the United Network for Organ Sharing (UNOS).

Gift of Life Michigan, a key member of the nationwide organ donation and transplant system responsible for reaching the milestone, credits the collaboration, innovation and passion of its fellow members for making it possible.

“Every life saved is a significant milestone,” said Dorrie Dils, president & CEO of Gift of Life Michigan. “We all owe a tremendous debt of gratitude for the thousands of donors and donor families who so selflessly and generously provided these gifts. They are true heroes and should be remembered for their legacy of kindness and generosity.

“I am also so proud of our team and our hospital and transplant center partners for their hard work in contributing to this amazing achievement,” she added.

Gift of Life joins in advancing Living It Forward, a national initiative led by UNOS in partnership with the transplant community to further accelerate the pace of donation and commemorate the lives saved, legacies honored and hope restored.

The pace has already increased. More than 41,000 transplants – a record – were performed nationwide in 2021, more than double the rate of 25 years ago.

Gift of Life has seen tremendous growth, too. When founded 51 years ago, the organization facilitated 25 organ transplants, all kidneys. Last year, 1,089 organs were transplanted from 429 donors.

“The organ donation and transplant community has made lifesaving history together,” said Jerry McCauley, M.D., M.P.H., president of the UNOS Board of Directors. “Now, we invite donor families, organ transplant candidates and recipients, living organ donors and others touched by transplant to join Living It Forward and honor and celebrate the gifts that made this important milestone possible.”

Of the one million U.S. transplants, more than half have come since 2007, which demonstrates the continuous system-wide improvement. Still, more needs to be done: More than 100,000 people are waiting for an organ transplant in the U.S., including 2,383 here in Michigan.

The number of patients waiting is also trending down, and Dils said Gift of Life is working to reach more people, add people to the Michigan Organ Donor Registry and save more lives. Earlier this year, Gift of Life launched the Check Your Heart campaign, its largest statewide outreach initiative, urging residents to check for the heart insignia on their license or state ID and to sign up if they are not already registered donors. Studies have shown that more than 90% of people support organ and tissue donation, yet in Michigan, only 55% of adults are registered.

“We can do better,” said Dils. “The United States has the best organ and tissue transplantation system in the world, and there is no reason for anyone to die while waiting for a life-saving transplant.”

For more information or to sign up as a donor, visit golm.org/register.

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