HOUSTON (December 09, 2016)

Organ donation - Life FlightMore than a dozen new people joined the organ donor registry Friday as part of an initiative by Memorial Hermann-Texas Medical Center (TMC) and LifeGift to address the growing national organ shortage by raising awareness for the mission while celebrating those who make the selfless decision to share the gift of life.

Demand for organs has risen sharply in recent years, but the number of organ donors and organs transplanted has remained relatively stagnant in the past decade, creating a widening gap that has lengthened the waiting list for those who need lifesaving transplants. There are nearly 120,000 people across the nation on the waiting list for an organ transplant, and every 10 minutes, a new name gets added to the list.

Some recipients wait months, even years, before a match is found. Sadly, 22 people lose their lives every day before receiving the call that could save them.In response to the growing national crisis, the U.S. Health Resources & Services Administration has called on hospitals to play a greater role in promoting donor registration. Memorial Hermann-TMC has responded to this request with a special tribute to organ donors, donor families and recipients that was unveiled to the public Friday morning in the hospital’s Rick Smith Gallery.

The installment, called The Ultimate Gift, highlights the importance of organ donation through specially commissioned portraits of donors, donor families and recipients which will be on display for the next several weeks.In addition, Memorial Hermann-TMC hosted an event Friday with more than 150 employees, affiliated physicians, patients and visitors in attendance, demonstrating an impressive show of solidarity for the lifesaving power of organ donation.

“I am so glad we can use the holiday season – the season of giving – as an opportunity to raise awareness about the importance of organ donation,” said Dr. J. Steve Bynon, chief of abdominal transplantation at Memorial Hermann-TMC and McGovern Medical School at UTHealth, who gave remarks at Friday’s event. “As healthcare providers, we are committed to saving lives, and we are beyond grateful for the thousands of registered organ donors who help make that possible.We hope others who have not registered find it in their hearts this season to make the decision to join this important cause.

”Dr. Bynon’s remarks were followed by a moving personal account from Karen Abercrombie, a Houston woman whose sister, Julie De Rossi, tragically perished in a car crash in 2004 and went on to save many lives through organ donation. A year and a half afterward, Abercrombie’s family discovered that De Rossi’s tissue donation – specifically her Achilles tendon – had benefited NFL star quarterback Carson Palmer, who is now with the Arizona Cardinals. Since her sister’s death, Abercrombie has become a vocal advocate for organ and tissue donation.

According to a Gallup Poll, nearly 95 percent of people surveyed say they strongly support organ donation, but only about 40 percent of eligible donors have actually registered in part because of the myths surrounding organ donation.In fact, most major religions support organ and tissue donation; organs can be donated at nearly any age; and organ and tissue recovery takes place only after all efforts to save a person’s life have been exhausted and death has been legally declared, according to LifeGift.

“I’ve come to realize that there are so many misconceptions about donation that just aren’t true. Through my sister’s donation, upwards of 80 lives were either saved or enriched,” Abercrombie said. “Julie was bigger than life while she was living, and she has definitely outlived herself.Following Friday’s event, attendees were invited to tour the latest exhibit in the Rick Smith Gallery and meet with LifeGift volunteers who were on hand to register new donors. Learn more about organ donation and see a special video commemorating donors and recipients, and sign up to become an organ donor today.