Special Report: Organ donation myths revealed

COLUMBUS, GA (WTVM) –  For many people, the idea of donating their organs is a simple choice. But many others believe donating their organs may put their very lives in jeopardy -- even when they have passed on.

Dr. Tamorie Smith is a nephrologists, treating patients with kidney disease, she says African Americans as a whole donate their organs a lot less often than people of many other races.

She says mistrust of the health care system and fear of the unknown are the major reasons. She goes on to say that some even worry they would be denied life saving treatment and allowed to die, so that their organs might go to someone waiting on a list.

With diseases like hypertension, diabetes and obesity so prevalent among African Americans and on the rise there has been an explosion in recent years of chronic kidney disease.   It impacts one in six adults… and a half a million Americans require dialysis or a kidney transplant. 

More than 75,000 people are waiting for kidney transplants -- 30% of those people are African American.

All the more reason, says Dr. Smith why blacks should sign up to be donors.. and tell their family about their wishes.

Nephrologist, Dr. Raj Alappan says of the patients being treated at Davita Dialysis which has centers in Columbus and Phenix City, at least 125 need new kidneys.

He says when it comes to kidney transplants, the best results come from living donors -- many people don't realize he says, they only need one kidney to live.

Dr. Alappan says the process of seeing if you might be a suitable donor is simple. The initial steps, begin with talking to your personal physician, and being in basic good health. If being a living donor is something you are considering, you'd be sent to Atlanta for more extensive testing. Dr. Allapan  says it takes a special person to make the sacrifice.

Venita Wallace is waiting and praying for her "big deal".  14 years ago she learned she had diabetes and two years ago her kidneys starting failing.

Although she has to be on dialysis 8 hours a day, with a teenage son, Wallace finds a way to make it all work.

Six months ago, Wallace got news she'd been hoping for, she'd been put on the national waiting list for a kidney transplant.

Now Wallace waits for the call that a donor has been found… and though she knows the average wait time for African Americans is about 3 years… she confident, it will happen.

For more information on organ donation you can visit the Congressional Kidney Caucus by clicking here.

And for more on the myths surrounding donation take a look at Mayoclinic.com's article here.

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