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Nevada Group Says State's Organ Transplant Pool Needs More Diversity

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The Nevada Donor Network wants more people of color to donate.

More than 123,000 people are on the national organ transplant waiting list and more than half of those patients are from minority populations.

The minority waiting list and recipient numbers far outpace the number of minority organ and tissue donors.

The first week in August was National Minority Donor Awareness Week, but Alma Rodriguez, Multicultural Outreach Coordinator for the Nevada Donor Network, says multicultural donation is an issue that’s important all year.

She said because certain diseases, like high blood pressure and diabetes, that can end up requiring people to get organ transplants are more prevalent in people of color, it is more likely that population will need organ transplants.

While organs are not allocated based on ethnic backgrounds, genetics do play a role and the chance of rejection is lowered when the ethnic backgrounds of donor and the recipient are the same. 

Rodriguez said so much of the problem is lack of education.

"The lack of registrations from minority populations are simply because they don't know what the critical need is," she said.

Cliff Condey is an African-American man who had to have a heart transplant in 2008. He told KNPR's State of Nevada that he is quick to tell anyone with questions about organ transplants his story.

 "Whenever anyone pose an objection to me, I just let them know that I am a walking-talking example of organ donation," Condey said.

Rodriguez said many people believe that it is against their religion to donate, which is likely not true most religions don't have a problem with it. 

Another myth she combats is the idea that in an emergency doctors and nurses won't try as hard to save a person who is an organ donor. Rodriguez reminds everyone that doctors and nurses have taken an oath to do everything within their power to save a person's life.

"We have to be constantly be out there promoting and raising awareness about the topic," Rodriguez said.

She also said that although talking about end of life choices can be taboo to many people in many cultures, 22 people die every day waiting for an organ transplant. 

Alma Rodriguez, multicultural coordinator, Nevada Donor Network; Cliff Conedy, heart transplant recipient

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Nikole Robinson Carroll is KNPR's Morning Edition host. You can hear her every morning from 5am until 10am on News 889. She also produces segments for KNPR's State of Nevada.