Lifesaving Organ Donations are a Special Need in Asian Community

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Area man received liver which allowed him to be there for his children 

Asians throughout the country are being reminded that they can help each other through organ and tissue donation.

Diseases like Hepatitis B hit Asian populations harder than other groups.  Often, a lifesaving liver transplant is the only cure.  Yet the number of Asians waiting for all types of transplants in the state is high –about 4,000 people.

In 2011, about 170 of those people on the waiting list for organs in California died without ever receiving their lifesaving transplant.

Through Aug. 7, the nation’s attention is focused on this problem as part of National Minority Donor Awareness week.    One of the groups educating the public about this issue, the California Transplant Donor Network, held an event in Millbrae in which people who have been helped by donation urged other Asians to help out by registering as an organ and tissue donor.

Kelvin Yu – Liver transplant recipient

“Doctors told me I would not live to see my two young sons grow up unless I received a liver transplant.  Thanks to my donor, I was able to see my sons grow up and graduate from college and hold my granddaughter,” said Kelvin Yu, a Chinese American resident of Redwood Shores in the Bay Area.  Hepatitis B ravaged his liver until he received his new liver from a deceased donor about 16 years ago.

He said long-held beliefs that Asians should not donate need to be abandoned – the time is now to help others in the community who, like he did, can live on only if they receive a transplant.  “Heaven doesn’t need your organs; leave them here on Earth to help others.”

Through Aug. 7, the nation’s attention is focused on this problem as part of National Minority Donor Awareness week.    One of the groups educating the public about this issue, the California Transplant Donor Network, held an event in Millbrae in which people who have been helped by donation urged other Asians to help out by registering as an organ and tissue donor.

“Doctors told me I would not live to see my two young sons grow up unless I received a liver transplant.  Thanks to my donor, I was able to see my sons grow up and graduate from college and hold my granddaughter,” said Kelvin Yu, a Chinese American resident of Redwood Shores in the Bay Area.  Hepatitis B ravaged his liver until he received his new liver from a deceased donor about 16 years ago.

He said long-held beliefs that Asians should not donate need to be abandoned – the time is now to help others in the community who, like he did, can live on only if they receive a transplant.  “Heaven doesn’t need your organs; leave them here on Earth to help others.”

Unlike Kelvin who needed a liver, other Asians wait for kidney transplants. Most of Asians and Pacific Islanders on the waiting list nationally need a kidney.

If the person who is donating a kidney is of the same ethnic group, the chances that the organ will be accepted in the recipient’s body and less likely to be rejected improve greatly, said Laura Yamagata, CTDN employee who works in helping to insure that donated organs go to the people at the top of the waiting list. Most of the organs in the Northern California area served by CTDN are transplanted into area residents.

Organizers of the National Minority Donor Awareness Day expanded the event to a week for the first time this year to further call attention to the fact that Asians sign up in fewer numbers to be donors than other groups.

“Of all the organs donated in 2011, less than 3 percent came from Asians.  For more lives to be saved, more people in our communities need to be vocal, to step up and talk about donation.”  Kathy Normant, a member of the API community who required a sudden liver transplant in 2008.

To register as an organ donor, go to ctdn.org

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