Eight Million Californians Say 'Yes!' to Organ and Tissue Donation

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March 15, 2011

Sacramento – The California Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) and Donate Life California (DLC) announced today that more than eight million Californians have now registered as organ and tissue donors through the state’s Donate Life California Organ & Tissue Donor Registry, a 33 percent increase in only 12 months (March 2010 - March 2011). In 2010, an average of one in three DMV customers said 'Yes' to donation, which is up from 2006 when only one in five DMV customers was saying 'Yes' to donation. The surge in registrations on the Donate Life California Registry is due predominately to continuing education about donation and the convenience for Californians to sign up as donors at the same time that they apply for or renew driver licenses or I.D. cards at the DMV.

"Since the registry was introduced in April 2005, donors who had registered prior to death have saved more than 1,300 lives through organ donation and healed more than 75,000 through cornea and tissue donation," stated Lisa Stocks, president of Donate Life California, the non-profit organization created in 2004 to administer the state-authorized donor registry. "In so doing, they are helping to give hope to the more than 21,000 Californians who are waiting for a life-saving organ transplant."

One of these is Brother Dan Palmer of Sacramento, a 49 year-old singer/songwriter who was listed on the national transplant waiting list in 2009 after almost dying from complications of end-stage liver disease. Although he is currently doing well, Palmer knows that in order for him to continue to survive and to live to see his dreams come true he will need a liver transplant.

Some drivers may have recently experienced a longer than normal delay in the new driver license issuance process due to manufacturing difficulties associated with the new security features on the updated driver licenses. To help expedite a return to the DMV's standard issuance timelines, L-1 is currently in the process of reviewing and analyzing the primary problems with the card production factory, has increased its quality control staff, and has purchased equipment necessary for the DMV to augment its ability to inspect and mail cards faster.

"Every day I live with the fact that one of out of every three people waiting for a lifesaving transplant will die while waiting," said Palmer. "I'm grateful for the generosity of the eight million who have signed up to give life... they give me hope that I can continue singing my songs."

"Nearly 7,000 DMV customers a day are checking 'Yes' on their DMV forms to register as organ and tissue donors," said DMV Director George Valverde. "We are humbled by our role in helping to make a difference in the lives of thousands of Californians. We encourage Californians to check 'Yes' to be a donor every time they apply for or renew their license – each 'Yes' that is checked can potentially save someone’s life."

Director Valverde further noted, "Beginning July 1, 2011, all driver license application forms will include two check boxes specific to organ donation to further clarify the applicant's intent: (A) Yes, add my name to the donor registry, or (B), I do not wish to register at this time."

The shortage of organs is not due simply to a lack of giving, but rather to the rarity with which the opportunity to donate organs presents itself. Less than one percent of deaths qualify for organ donation. That's why every single opportunity to donate counts.

Eight-year-old Kourtney Najjar of San Diego was diagnosed at 15 months of age with neurogenic pseudo obstruction, an uncommon disease that caused intestinal and pancreatic failure. After years of prolonged hospital stays, Kourtney received a rare three organ transplant (small and large bowel as well as the pancreas) on July 21, 2010, the day before her eighth birthday. Unfortunately, Kourtney then went into severe acute rejection and was re-listed on the national transplant waiting list on October 1, 2010. Kourtney has been at Mattel Children's Hospital at UCLA for eight months, waiting to receive her second gift of life.

"Knowing that eight million people in California are willing to save someone's life, the life of someone like Kourtney, is inspiring to me," said Laura Najjar, Kourtney's mother. "I have no words to express what this means to my family other than 'thank you'."

Najjar went on to add, "Because a family made the decision to donate their child's organs during a tragic and painful time in their lives, my daughter was given hope and a chance to be pain free. The only way to describe donors and donor families is as super heroes."

Although Donate Life California has more registered donors than any other state donor registry, when offered the opportunity to register as donors a relatively low percentage of Californians choose to do so. Of the 26 million licensed drivers and ID holders, only 30 percent have signed up to be organ and tissue donors.

"We each have the power to make a difference in the lives of individuals like Dan and Kourtney by registering as organ and tissue donors online or through the DMV," added Stocks. "Registering as a donor helps ensure that your wishes are followed after you're gone. Being able to honor a loved one’s wishes is much easier for a family than trying to guess what someone would have wanted."

Donate Life California Organ & Tissue Donor Registry is the nonprofit, state-authorized organ and tissue donor registry which records the decision to donate in a secure, confidential database that is searched by authorized organ and tissue recovery personnel at the time of an actual donation opportunity. It is administered by Donate Life California and California's four nonprofit, federally designated organ recovery organizations: California Transplant Donor Network, Golden State Donor Services, Lifesharing and OneLegacy. As a state-authorized public service, the registry assures that all personal information is kept confidential and stored in a secure database, accessible only to authorized organ and tissue recovery personnel.

For more information about the Donate Life California Registry, the process, and how donation saves and improves lives, please visit http://www.dmv.ca.gov/about/donateLife/donateLife.htm, www.donateLIFEcalifornia.org or in Spanish at www.doneVIDAcalifornia.org.

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Don’t Stand In Line, Go Online! Doing business with the DMV has never been easier. The DMV offers an array of services to customers 24 hours a day, 7 days a week through its Web site (www.dmv.ca.gov), including online appointments for written and drive tests; vehicle registration and driver license renewals, selection of personalized license plates, changes of address and payment of fees via secure debit transactions. Customers can also effect transactions by calling DMV customer service at (800) 777-0133. DMV is a department under the Business, Transportation and Housing Agency.

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