South Suburban Mayors Reaching Out To Enlist African American Organ Donors

CHICAGO (CBS) — Mayors from the south suburbs have teamed up with the Gift of Hope organ donation network, in a campaign aimed at increasing the numbers of organ donors in the black community, where far fewer are donors, and many more are in need of transplants.

“There’s something significantly wrong with the fact when African Americans that constitute approximately 13 percent of the state population represent better than 48 percent of the patients waiting for kidney transplants,” said Jack Lynch, director of community affairs for Gift of Hope. “When we subject the Hispanic component to that, we’re better than 60-plus percent, yet from those two groups, less than 20 percent of the organs that are donated.”

Monica Fox is among those waiting for a transplant.

“I am 50 years old, and I am waiting for a kidney transplant. In the first 24 hours, the doctors told my family that I wouldn’t make it, but I come from a long line of praying people,” she said. “Waiting 5 to 7 years on this list is not going to work. I’m praying that I will get a living donor.”

Fox said 123,000 people are ahead of her on the transplant list, but she draws strength from Thornton Township Supervisor Frank Zuccarelli, who received a kidney in 2013.

“Please everybody, understand this is very important to African Americans, to Hispanic Americans, to all Americans, to all people,” he said. “We can’t live without your help. We need to help each other, and this is something that we can all play a part in.”

Zucarelli knows what it’s like to wait for a kidney transplant; the pain, the dialysis, losing the will to live. For him, that all changed when a donor kidney became available about a year ago.

“I can’t explain to you how so much it’s meant to me in my life. I want to live again,” he said.

Fox and Zuccarelli joined a number of south suburban mayors at Ingalls Memorial Hospital in Harvey, where Fox recently underwent dialysis treatments. The mayors said they plan outreach efforts in churches, barbershops, and beauty salons; they’re taking up the cause to chance myths and misconceptions about organ transplants to get more African Americans to sign up as donors.

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