As a 3-year-old, long-time Isidore Newman School Science teacher and Cross Country Coach Randy Zell was diagnosed with Type 1 Diabetes. Insulin dependent, he spent 30 years managing his diabetes until his body started showing signs of distress. Eye surgeries followed by kidney failure forced him into time-consuming dialysis treatments. At this point, Randy and his doctors recognized improvement in his quality of life would only occur through kidney and pancreas transplants, so his name was added to the long list of men, women and children needing an organ transplant. Fortunately in that fall, a cousin was found to be a living donor kidney match and then shortly after that successful surgery he received a pancreas donation. For the last 15 years Randy has enjoyed an insulin-free life, until recently when he discovered he now needs another new pancreas. Randy is optimistic that scientific advances in organ and tissue regeneration will soon fulfill the needs of those awaiting transplants, but until that time he stresses the importance of work that dispels misconceptions and raises awareness of the crucial need for organ donation and registry. Like the more than 112,000 individuals in the U.S. on the organ transplant list, Randy makes it clear that organ donation “is our only chance.”
For the last 20 years, the Legacy Donor Foundation has dedicated themselves to growing the Louisiana Organ Donor Registry to help people just like Randy. Founded by passionate New Orleanian David Voelker with the mission to save and heal lives by inspiring Louisiana residents to register as organ, eye and tissue donors, Legacy accomplishes their mission by providing education programs and public awareness activities to the citizens of Louisiana. In 1999 there were only 450,000 names on the secure and confidential registry, and today through aggressive marketing and public relations campaigns, comprehensive education programs and strong partnerships, the nonprofit organization has helped increase the number of names to over 2.6 million.
As the only Louisiana organization of its kind, Legacy makes registering as an organ donor easy and accessible. Executive Director Nicole Labadot explains that once they get the conversation started regarding organ donation, they’re able to educate citizens allowing for more informed decisions. Partnering with the Louisiana Office of Motor Vehicles through strategic marketing campaigns and training, OMV staff is mandated by law to ask ID and driver’s license customers if they would like to join Louisiana’s Organ Donation Registry and will assist them with the process. Individuals can also sign up online and Legacy offers peer-to-peer youth led programs at local high schools as well as educational outreach in the workplace and churches to encourage participation.
Why register? Every 10 minutes, another person is added to the waiting list; sadly, 22 people die each day due to the shortage of organs available for transplant. In the U.S., 95 percent of adults support organ donation, but only 58 percent are actually signed up as donors. And, did you know that one organ, eye and tissue donor can heal and save more than 75 lives? “We know the work we are doing is saving lives” says Nicole. In this season of giving, we can all use the power of organ donation to give the best gift of all to those we know and those we don’t: the gift of life.
A little more…
Register your decision to be an organ donor at the OMV or visit DonateLifeLA.org. For more information, call (800) 404-0708 or email questions to firstname.lastname@example.org.