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MUSCMedical LinksCharleston LinksArchivesCatalyst AdvertisersSeminars and EventsResearch StudiesPublic RelationsResearch GrantsMUSC home pageCommunity HappeningsCampus NewsApplause


Raising flag honors organ donors' families

by Mary Helen Yarborough
Public Relations
Lifted by gentle breezes, the new white Donate Life banner unfurls, revealing its message urging the ultimate gift.
As part of a nationwide campaign to honor organ donors and their families, the flag will be displayed daily through this month in front of the Transplant Center administration building on Ashley Avenue. After April 30, it will be erected each time someone who is authorized commits for the donation of organs, tissue and marrow of a deceased inpatient.
Sara Stello straightens out a part of the new flag. Starting in May, the flag will be erected each time a loved one commits for the donation of organs, tissue and marrow of a deceased inpatient.

“When the family makes that decision, we will raise the flag in honor of them,” said Sara Stello, transplant program coordinator.
All of the hospitals that harvest organs for donation also will raise a flag in a donor family’s honor, including Roper St. Francis. “We have a little friendly competition going on with them,” Stello said. Other participating hospitals include Palmetto Health System hospitals in Columbia, and the Greenville Hospital System.
The flag program launch coincides with National Donate Life Month.

Recommit your donation
Any adult desiring to be an organ donator must register their desire with the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV).
The registration requirement stems from the S.C. Organ and Tissue Donor Registry established in January. Everyone who desires to be an organ donor must register a legal consent to be a donor, even if that consent was made prior, at the DMV or through the confidential, secure donor registry at (Information from the DMV will not automatically be transferred to this registry from previous consent.)
By affirming a desire to be an organ donor, part of our bodies will be made available for lifesaving transplants, therapies and medical research. Recommitting a desire to become an organ donator would help later avoid conflicts and the pressure on loved ones.
Since the Every 11 Minutes Campaign was launched, donation commitments have grown by nearly 72,000 statewide, including 170 from the MUSC campus alone.
The Web address relates to a fact that every 11 minutes, another person in this country is added to the transplant waiting list; but many will die while waiting to receive an organ transplant.
Organ donation and transplantation began in the United States nearly 55 years ago, and more than 30 years ago at MUSC.
In 2008, more than 14,198 people were organ donors, according to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), which estimates that more than 200,000 people are alive today because of organ donation.
Still, more than 101,000 people are on the waiting list for an organ transplant. Thousands more need tissue and corneal transplants each year, and about 30,000 people a year are diagnosed with blood diseases that could be cured by a marrow/blood stem cell transplant.
NIH advises that donors inform families and friends of their decision.

Threat to South Carolina organ supply
MUSC transplant program officials and clinicians are opposing a measure that could send organs harvested here out-of-state even when a South Carolinian has been on a waiting list for that particular organ.
The measure proposed by the United Network for Organ Sharing (UNOS) appears to reward states without the same level of commitment and generosity as South Carolina.
The proposed change would require livers recovered locally to be distributed among all recipients in the region, even if a local recipient is available. The proposal is slated for a vote by the UNOS board as early as late June. UNOS, which is an agency overseen by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, will receive comments until 5 p.m. April 24.
“The Medical University of South Carolina Transplant Center believes that this proposal, if approved, could have a negative impact on all patients who are waiting on the list for a Liver Transplant as the proposed changes will require patients to be sicker in order to receive priority within the region,” said a letter from Kim Phillips, R.N., transplant program administrator; and Prabhakar Baliga, M.D., transplant program medical director. “We believe this proposal could reduce the number of livers available for transplant in patients listed at MUSC by 20 percent to 30 percent.”
Baliga and Phillips said the implication of the UNOS proposal would:

  • Lower post-transplant survival because of lost wait-list priority;
  • Reduced quality of organs offered for transplant to patients in South Carolina;
  • Increased cost of transplant and organ recovery expense due to increase travel distance between donor hospital and transplant center;
  • Decreased access to transplants; particularly minority access to transplants for patients living in such states as South Carolina.
  • Reduced community support for donation.

For those interested in participating in the letter- writing campaign to  South Carolina's congressional representatives regarding this matter, e-mail
Comments may be made to UNOS, visit

Friday, April 24, 2009

The Catalyst Online is published weekly by the MUSC Office of Public Relations for the faculty, employees and students of the Medical University of South Carolina. The Catalyst Online editor, Kim Draughn, can be reached at 792-4107 or by email, Editorial copy can be submitted to The Catalyst Online and to The Catalyst in print by fax, 792-6723, or by email to To place an ad in The Catalyst hardcopy, call Island Publications at 849-1778, ext. 201.