Desperate patients cross state lines to find donors

More than 114,000 people are on the national waiting list for an organ. Just one donor can save up to eight lives. The Donor Alliance reports that 160 donors in Colorado and Wyoming saved 489 lives over the past year, a record. For some, finding a donor can depend on where you're located.

Longmont resident Conrad Redin tells FOX31 every minute of the day he thinks of only one thing, receiving the life saving kidney transplant he needs, “it drains you, you’re fatigued, tired, you have your good days and your bad days.”

He has faced a five to seven year wait for an organ donation and has been on dialysis since June of last year.

His devoted wife Elena stays by his side, “he loves life, he loves his kids and his family and me ... I don't want to lose him.”

A trip to Nebraska revealed Conrad may not have to wait as long as expected. He says the transplant center there may be able to provide him with treatment after waiting several months rather than years, adding “I've got a lot of life in me.”

Elena says they are packed and ready to go, “I almost fainted to be honest with you.” Getting to Nebraska and remaining there for treatment will be costly, especially after medical expenses. A GoFundMe has been set up to help.

FOX31 asked Nebraska Medical Center about why they may be able to offer a better option for Conrad.

They issued this statement explaining, “Because Nebraska Medical Center is the only transplant center in Nebraska with only one organ procurement organization to assist in the transplant process, we are generally able to provide shorter waiting times than transplant centers in other parts of the country.”

Donor Alliance or Colorado and Wyoming tells FOX31 it is important to consider that a how long a patient waits for an organ donation and where he or she receives one depends on a fragile combination. They provided the following statement:

“Understanding wait times is a complex issue and is related to a number of variables. Each patient on the wait list has a different situation. There are a number of factors that contribute to how long a patient is on the wait list, including blood type, height and weight of the transplant candidate, medical urgency, the proximity between the recipient’s hospital and the potential donor organ, time on the wait list, etc. Individual transplant centers can articulate the unique characteristics that might exist in their wait list populations, which may include the size of their geographic service area and ultimately the number of patients listed.

Colorado is one of the most generous states in the country in terms of donor designation rate, or percentage of individuals joining the state’s donor registry, which reached 69% in 2018. The generosity of donors and their families in our region also resulted in a record-breaking year for donation last year. A record 160 organ donors saved the lives of 489 people through organ donation and transplantation, and 1,684 tissue donors provided bone and skin grafts to heal and potentially save the lives of tens of thousands of recipients in need.

Unfortunately, the need for donated organs outweighs the number of organs available for transplant. This is why it is important that everyone sign up as an organ, eye and tissue donor and talk to loved ones about their decision. At the time of their death, just one donor can save up to eight lives through organ donation and save or heal more than 75 lives through eye and tissue donation. Residents can sign up to become organ, eye and tissue donors at the time of death by saying Yes each time they obtain a new driver license or state ID, or anytime at DonateLifeColorado.org.”

We have a gathered a list of resources and more information about how to become an organ donor and/or support donation programs online.

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