Organ donor stresses need for minority donors

Right now, nearly a thousand people in South Carolina are awaiting an organ transplant and many will die before they get it.

This week is National Minority Donor Awareness Week, when advocates strive to get more minorities to register as organ donors.

Though donor advocates say kidney failure is four times more likely to affect African Americans than Caucasians, many in minority communities are reluctant to register.

Tim Meagher of Myrtle Beach is a liver transplant recipient. As he waits at the South Carolina Department of Motor Vehicles office to renew his driver's license, he urges others to check the box on their license application indicating their intent to be a donor.

"I'm good and alive and healthy, because someone was thoughtful enough to check it off or their family donated," Meagher said.

Millions of Americans have made the decision to become organ donors.

"It's a very important thing and I think people need to take it seriously and seriously consider doing it," said Andy Christenson of Myrtle Beach.

But others are reluctant.

According to the organ and tissue registry LifePoint, African Americans make up 61 percent of those in need of a transplant in South Carolina, but only 18 percent of registered donors in the state.

LifePoint advocates say a lack of awareness about transplantation, religious misconceptions or distrust of the medical community are problems for donor registry among minorities.

Many, like Alexandra Burgess of Myrtle Beach, are convinced of the need.

"When I'm dead, I'm not going to use my organs. If they could save a life, have them," Burgess said.

But others are still reluctant, though they may acknowledge the need.

"It's a good thing, but for me, I don't check that box because I want to keep my own stuff in me. Same way I came, the same way I go," said Robert Watson of Myrtle Beach.

Transplant advocates say there is less chance of organ rejection if the donor is of the same race as the recipient.

But regardless of race, many, like Tim Meagher, are convinced of the need for more donors.

"If you can bring something good to someone else that has suffered in some way, that's great.

Last week, Myrtle Beach City Councilman Randal Wallace lost his half-brother to a brain aneurism.

But Keith Wallace's death meant a better life for others, as his organs were donated to recipients around the country.

For more information about how you can register as a donor online, click here.