CORE breaks organ donation record for third consecutive year
PITTSBURGH — The Center for Organ Recovery & Education (CORE) announced that 2021 was the third consecutive record-breaking year for saving and healing lives through organ, tissue and cornea donation across its service area of western Pennsylvania, West Virginia and Chemung County, New York.
CORE, empowered by generous donors and hospital partners, saved and healed more than 100,000 lives in 2021, over 10% more than 2020.
CORE, the nonprofit organization that facilitates organ, tissue and cornea donation throughout the region, broke records across several donation categories in 2021 through the community’s generosity.
The organization made possible nearly 700 life-saving organ transplants, all thanks to its selfless, record-breaking 325 organ donors. Of those donors, 10 were over the age of 75, a group that is often overlooked for donation due to being excluded from standard evaluation criteria for donor candidates. This number is the highest the region has ever seen, marking a 67% increase over 2020.
CORE contributed to the increase by encouraging a case-by-case approach to donor evaluation that aims to afford more individuals the ability to give the gift of life, including older donors. The most notable of these donors was Cecil F. Lockhart of Welch, W.Va., who in May 2021 became the oldest organ donor in U.S. history at 95.
The recipient of his liver, a woman in her 60s, continues to do well.
The region also broke records for tissue donation, with 1,315 tissue donors contributing to a 7% increase over 2020. Cornea donors increased by nearly 47%, as 664 donors gave sight-saving gifts. The combined impact of the region’s tissue and cornea donors equated to healing and restored sight to more than 99,000 people.
“As we continued to persevere amid the pandemic in 2021, we leaned heavily on our hospital partners to make this record-breaking year possible,” said Susan Stuart, president and CEO of CORE. “The combined efforts of their teams and our own, along with the generosity of our donors and their families who said yes to organ donation, gave hundreds of recipients a second chance at life. We hope to help even more people together in 2022 — more than 100,000 people on the waiting list for a life-saving organ transplant depend on it. A commitment to pursuing ‘every donor, every time’ is our promise to make that goal possible.”
Beyond the immediate lifesaving and healing transplants the region’s record-breaking donors made possible, CORE also reported increases in both organ and tissue research. Donations for organ research increased by 37% when compared to 2020, while tissue research saw a 13% increase. Stuart said these efforts will benefit individuals in CORE’s region, and beyond, for years to come. She noted the organization’s focus on excellence as a driving force behind the increases.
“As a 2019 Malcolm Baldrige National Quality Award winner, we hold ourselves to the highest levels of performance excellence,” Stuart said. “Part of that excellence is ensuring our efforts have a longstanding impact in the communities we serve, which is why research is such an important aspect of our organization. We are grateful to the donors and hospital partners who helped achieve the strides we saw in 2021.”
Even with CORE’s record-breaking year, the need for donors remains critical. A new person is added to the national transplant waiting list every 10 minutes, and nearly 2,600 people are waiting for a life-saving organ transplant in western Pennsylvania and West Virginia alone. Yet, only half of Pennsylvanians and a third of West Virginians are registered as organ donors.
One person can save the lives of eight by donating organs and heal the lives of 75 through tissue donation. Anyone can sign up to be a donor, regardless of age or medical history.
Register as an organ, tissue and cornea donor today at registerme.org/core.