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Northeast Ohio organ donor registrations down due in part to COVID-19, mid-year BMV closures

Posted at 9:44 PM, Oct 07, 2020
and last updated 2020-10-08 09:26:38-04

CLEVELAND — Northeast Ohio's Lifebanc and Lifeline of Ohio report a serious drop in the number of Ohioans signing up to be organ, eye, and tissue donors in the Buckeye State.

Lifeline of Ohio said the closing of many of the state's 181 BMV license branches due to COVID-19 concerns from mid-March through May 25 is principally responsible for the drop in crucial registrations.

The agency reported 53,000 registrations in April, May, and June 2019 and just 23,000 people signed up to be donors during the same months this year.

Chris Crepage, Lifebanc Community Services Program Manager, told News 5 Northeast Ohio's wait times for an organ donation could grow as a result.

“Twenty-one people die a day waiting for a life-saving organ transplant across the country,” Crepage said.

“Ten people are added to the waitlist to get a life-saving organ transplant every day.”

Colleen Gerber of Cleveland, who's had two life-saving kidney transplants since 1985, told News 5 the severe reduction in people registering to donate has her concerned that more people may have to wait longer for life-saving transplants.

“It’s a rollercoaster ride, that’s the best way to describe it," Gerber said

“Obviously when you find out you’re in organ failure, no matter what type, you’re devastated.”

“My first kidney came from my sister, it was a living related donation.”

“I was on dialysis before the first transplant for several months, and I can tell you it’s not fun.”

“Here I am 15-years later, working and loving my family, and having a great life thanks to a second anonymous donor who I never met."

Lifebanc and Donate Life Ohio are fighting back with a virtual registration campaign called 'Don't Wait Save 8,' which is set to start on Thurs. Oct. 8 at 10:08 a.m.

Crepage said it will give Ohioans the opportunity to sign-up to be a donor online and hear inspirational stories from families who have been affected by the need for a life-saving transplant.

“We'll hear from recipients, donor family members, people on the waiting list to share that personal story, and hopefully encourage individuals to become organ, eye and tissue donors," Crepage said

“Everyone who registers as an organ, eye, and tissue donor should express that to friends and family so that they know that their legacy of having life go on beyond their own life can be upheld.”