By Elise Christenson
The decision to become an organ donor became legally binding in Utah for the first time Wed., April 17, when the Utah Organ Donor Registry was instated for public use.
Previous to the registry, Utahns wanting to become donors could check the “yes” box on their driver”s license application. However, the immediate family could overrule this decision.
The Utah Organ Donor Registry will make the decision legally binding, much like a will.
“If the individual wants to be a donor, it will be done. We can recover those tissues and organs,” said Tracy Schmidt, executive director of Intermountain Donor Services.
According to a public opinion poll by Kagle Research Association, 91 percent of Utahns support organ donation. However, when families are faced with the donation decision, only 65 percent decide to donate organs. Only 45 percent choose to donate tissue.
“It”s hard when it”s their loved one, but we want to close that gap,” Schmidt said.
Troy Peterson, a Lindon resident, understands the pain of donating a loved one”s organs, but he also knows of the benefits of receiving a transplant.
Suffering from an unknown virus that destroyed his kidneys, Peterson would have died within two years without a transplant.
When his sister died in a car accident a year and a half ago, he donated her organs – and inherited her kidney.
“My emotions were racing a million miles per hour. I was distraught that my sister was gone and at the same time I knew that now I”d be able to live,” he said.
Previous to the accident, all of Peterson”s immediate family had been tested to be living donors except for his little sister. Peterson refused to have her tested because she was going to be married that month.
“I wouldn”t let her give her kidney to me although she kept swearing up and down that she would be the one,” he said.
Peterson paused to collect his thoughts.
“She turned out to be right.”
Although it was hard to lose her, the decision to donate her organs was easy, Peterson said, because she had previously expressed her desire to be a donor.
“Being an organ donor is one of the most important decisions that can be made,” he said. “Her kidney has given me a new lease on life.”
Jamie Palmer, Miss Utah 2000, also benefited from a transplant.
Diagnosed with bone cancer when she was 12 years old, she needed a tibia transplant. The transplant did much more than just save her leg, she said.
“It has made me what I am, strengthened my character and made me appreciate the person that literally gave of himself for me,” she said.
According to Schmidt, 260 Utahns currently need organ transplants. Nationally, 17 people die each day waiting for a donor.
The Utah Organ Donor Registry is on-line at www.yesutah.org Potential donors have the option of itemizing the organs and tissues they want to donate.
Utahns who checked “yes” on the driver”s license form will automatically be transferred into the registry.