Giving the Gift of Life

9 years 8 months 3 weeks ago January 02, 2007 Jan 2, 2007 Tuesday, January 02 2007 Tuesday, January 02, 2007 9:11:37 AM CST in News

Keith Thornburg's Christmas present came a day late.

"I had my bags packed, my house was closed up, you know, sealed up for the while, and all my bills were taken care of, so I said, 'Let's do it,'" said Thornburg, a kidney recipient.

He's one of the lucky few to get a new kidney before he became too sick for a transplant.

"I've been really fortunate in the sense that I've never been really sick," he explained.

But, for some, the chance comes too late.

"There were about 63,000 people on the waiting list, and less than 20% of them actually got a kidney donated," said Suzanne Opperman, transplant coordinator at Truman Veterans Hospital in Columbia.

In 2004, there were nearly 6,200 liver transplants nationwide. But, at least 17,000 patients were still on the waiting list a year later. About 1,200 patients got lung transplants, but 1,300 did out. And about 2,000 heart transplants took place, with another 3,000 people still waiting.

If you're an organ donor, your family needs to know.

"There are so many things that can be donated," Opperman said. "That cannot happen unless the family gives approval."

But, you can earmark some organs for donation even while you're still alive.

"Bone marrow transplant is a living donation, skin is a donation and blood transfusion," explained Opperman.

Thornburg added, "I just thought, what a tremendous thing for her to have done, to say, 'I'm not going to need these when I'm gone,' and pass them on to somebody so they can lead a normal life."

At least 2,000 Missouri residents are on the waiting list for organs, including 1,000 who need a kidney. Lung transplant patients are the next largest group, with about 500, while another 200need a liver.

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