Right now more than 120,000 Americans are waiting for an organ donor. Every day, about 20 people run out of and die without one. The wait can be especially long for minorities like African Americans and Hispanics/Latinos. That’s why Reginald King of Houston, Texas, is sharing his story.
King, who is African American, doesn’t take anything for granted anymore. But, he says, he used to. Even though his mother died of congestive heart failure in her 40s, his sister died of it and King has been diagnosed with it, he somehow figured he’d be fine. He lived a healthy lifestyle.
He says, “I never drank.. I never smoked. I always worked out because of my family history. So I'm doing all these things and I'm in pretty good shape.”
But King’s condition worsened. Eventually, close to death, his only option was a heart transplant.
On Valentine’s Day a few years back, a Dallas-area teenager named Ian Heideman was involved in a fatal wreck. King received his heart. He has a photo of Ian’s mother listening to her son’s heart beating in his chest.
Ian Heideman saved a number of lives that day. But King was extra lucky. Because he’s a minority, he knew he might face a much longer wait for a heart.
Claudia Sanchez of Life Gift of Texas says close to 70 of those waiting for transplants are minorities.
They’re less likely to receive a donor organ because of health factors, cultural resistance in minority communities and because of compatibility issues.
But Sanchez says they're working to change that trend with education. She says, “We work closely with the American Diabetes Association, with the American Heart Association, to increase and promote healthy habits so people don't have to wait and unfortunately die waiting on an organ.”
People like Reginald King. He sees the reluctance to donate first hand. And he says he’s doing his best to get his story out there, and convince other minorities to become organ donors. King says, 'It's like breaking down a wall because I've heard it. I'll tell them my story and ask 'Are you and organ donor?' 'No I'm taking what I got with me!' 'You don't need what you got. You're going to be gone. You don't want to be that blunt. You want them to know hey, man, you are not going to need it.'
For more information visit the Georgia Donate Life organ donor registry: georgiadonatelife.org.