Congestive heart failure didn't stop Rosie Tabb from working or enjoying life. But four years ago her health took a turn for the worse.
"I'd not been feeling well for a couple of months so I went in to see my doctor and told him I though maybe my medication needed to be changed. He told me "Yes we need to change your medication, but you also need a heart transplant."
"I was shocked to realize that he meant it," she says. "He didn't even want me to go home that day… I never thought I would need a heart transplant."
Tabb, a longtime Legacy Health Systems employee, went into OHSU hospital on May 18 and received her new heart on May 29, an unusually short wait for a transplant. People who need organs – whether it's a kidney, bone marrow, an eye or a heart are placed on national waiting lists. Transplants are scheduled according to organ size, tissue match and the urgency of the recipient's need.
Tabb doesn't know who her donor was or where the donor lived. But she says she will be eternally grateful, that her donor signed up to donate organs after death – and eventually saved her life.
"The doctors said I would not have lived for another three months," she says. "My health now is really good."
Now, four years later, Tabb is a busy woman leading a full life. She takes care of her 5-year-old granddaughters; Nevajah and Mckenzie she volunteers for her church – Mt Olivet Baptist; and she volunteers for the American Red Cross and Donate Life Northwest, a 35-year-old nonprofit organization whose mission is to save and enhance lives through the promotion of organ, eye, and tissue donation in Oregon and Southwest Washington.
She also talks to churches, schools and African American groups about organ donation.
Many people don't realize that most churches and religious groups allow organ donation, she says. That's why this weekend, Nov. 12-14, has been designated as National Donor Sabbath, and Donate Life Northwest is working with faith leaders to bring the need for registered organ donors to the attention of the faith communities.
A study for Donate Life showed that 25 percent of people who are not registered donors felt they needed more information before they could commit to registering, and four percent mistakenly thought their church would not allow it. In fact, all major religions support organ, eye and tissue donation and see it as a final act of love and generosity toward others.
One of the most prominent recipients in Portland's African American community is Rev. Dr. T. Allen Bethel of the Maranantha Church. Dr. Bethel received a kidney last year from one of his congregation.
The Skanner News editor Lisa Loving is a kidney donor.
What's The Need?
More than 106,000 people in the United States are waiting for lifesaving organ transplants. A million more suffer conditions that can be successfully treated with donated corneas or tissue. Each day 18 people die in the U.S. waiting for an organ transplant.
Every 11 minutes a new name is added to the United Network for Organ Sharing organ waiting list.
One organ and tissue donor can help more than 50 people.
There is no added cost to the donor for organ, eye, and tissue donation for transplant.
People of all ages and medical histories can sign up to be potential donors.
Organ, eye, and tissue donation usually will not interfere with the timing of funeral services, and it will not prevent an open casket funeral.
Organ donation is supported by all major religions.
If you are under 18 years old, your family must sign a consent form for you to become a donor even if you have signed up on the Donor Registry or through DMV
It's a good idea to discuss your wishes with your family if you want your intentions to be known and honored.
Three Ways to Register
Code your driver's license, permit or identification card as a donor
In Oregon, anyone 13 years and older can sign up on the Donor Registry at www.donatelifenw.org
Request a paper form at 800-452-1369
What can we donate at time of death?
Tissues: Eyes, Skin, Bone, Connective Tissues, Heart Valves, Veins
Organs: Kidneys, Heart, Liver, Lungs, Pancreas, Small Intestine
Entire body for medical education
Donation possibilities while living:
Blood, bone marrow, one kidney, a portion of a lung or liver
A Snapshot of the Organ Waiting List in 2010
84,220 people waiting for a kidney transplant
15,917 people waiting for a liver transplant
1,463 people waiting for a pancreas transplant
2,189 people waiting for a kidney-pancreas transplant
212 people waiting for an intestine transplant
3,144 people waiting for a heart transplant
72 people waiting for a heart-lung transplant
1,830 people waiting for a lung transplant
Total Number of People on Organ Waiting List 106,729
Oregon Patients on Organ Donation and Transplantation lists
500 people are waiting for a kidney transplant
124 people are waiting for a liver transplant
1 people are waiting for a pancreas transplant
8 people are waiting for a combined kidney/pancreas transplant
12 people are waiting for a heart transplant
Total number of People on Waiting List 645
For more information visit www.donatelife.org