Transplant recipient shares story for Minority Donor Awareness Month

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CHAMPAIGN, Ill. (WCIA) — Everyday, someone receives a life-saving organ transplant. And if you didn’t already know, August is National Minority Donor Awareness Month.

“I would not be here today…I know that for a fact…had it not been for organ donation,” says Jim McFarlin.

Life in Champaign was quite different for McFarlin nine years ago. He was in stage four kidney failure, but everything changed when a 6-year-old girl died unexpectedly.

“I am continually amazed and forever grateful to her parents for having the grace and the sacrificial nature, given all the grief they were going through at that moment, to say, ‘How can our child’s life benefit other lives?'” says McFarlin.

The girl’s kidney grew to fit his six-foot-four frame. Today, you can find McFarlin officiating wedding ceremonies and sharing his story with others.

Gift of Hope Organ and Tissue Donor Network says experts have found transplants are more successful when donor and recipient share the same ethnicity.

“Everyone can donate to everyone, but the chances for non-rejection improve when you’re of the same ethnicity or racial group,” explains Marion Shuck with Gift of Hope.

Compatible blood types and tissue markers are more commonly found among people of those same groups.

McFarlin’s body accepted that kidney a little bit better because that little girl was African American.

Ethnic minorities make up 60 percent of the people on the nation’s transplant wait list, but only make up a third of registered donors.

That’s why McFarlin encourages others to save a life just like his was.

“We are not donating organs at the same rate we’re receiving organs. They got to come from somewhere,” says McFarlin. “What we can do to help, we should do.”

Gift of Hope says Minority Donor Awareness started 30 years ago with just one day in August, but expanded to the entire month as the need grew.

You can register to become an organ and tissue donor by visiting the Gift of Hope website.

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