The Waiting List

Organ donor registrations in Michigan are on the rise, but potential transplant patients still face a supply vs. demand gap


Published:

Photograph by Cybelle Codish

In November 2010, Artelia Griggs received the most devastating news: Her daughter, Angela, had died after a severe asthma attack.

In life, Angela “didn’t have a lot herself but she was always willing to give whatever she had to someone else,” says Griggs, who lives in Detroit.

So it was “typical of her” that Angela had signed up to be an organ donor, Griggs says, adding it was “a blessing” that her daughter had already made that decision “because at that time and in the midst of my grief it would have been very difficult for me.

“You don’t ever expect to bury your children,” she says, “but you know when they’ve done something and in their dying they’ve helped someone else to live, that gives you a sense of gratification … even at our lowest hour or at our lowest point. Our loved ones did something special for someone else.”

Angela donated her corneas, tissue, and bone. Since her daughter’s death, Griggs has become an advocate for organ donation as a member of the Michigan Family Donor Council and a donor herself, something she didn’t think was possible as a nine-year survivor of breast cancer.

Donations have helped people like Leslie Taylor-Simo, who has end-stage renal disease. The 37-year-old Canton resident, who has had three kidney transplants, is a social worker at a dialysis office in Ypsilanti — the same unit where she was a patient years ago. She’s battled health problems over the years and is constantly thinking about organ failure, but she doesn’t give up. 

“My donor is a fighter,” Taylor-Simo posted recently on Facebook. “Then again, so am I.” She doesn’t ask friends for sympathy, just to sign up as organ donors. She and Griggs continue their fight as advocates on the issue.

In 2011, 27 percent of Michigan’s adults were signed up as organ, eye, and tissue donors, putting the state near the bottom among other states, according to Gift of Life Michigan, the state’s only federally designated organ and tissue donation program. After a push from Secretary of State Ruth Johnson to expand the donor rolls, Michigan is at roughly the national average for the percentage of adults signed up on the registry, with more than 50 percent. More than 3.8 million people are on the state’s Organ Donor Registry. In Wayne, 20 percent of adults were registered, in Oakland 30 percent, and Macomb 25 percent. Now there are 36 percent registered donors in Wayne, 51 percent in Oakland, and 45 percent in Macomb.

The registry numbers may be up, but the number of people on the national waiting list continues to grow, especially for kidneys. According to the National Kidney Foundation,
out of the 123,000-plus people waiting for an organ, more than 101,000 people are waiting for a kidney. As diet-related diseases rise, so  does chronic kidney disease; diabetes and high blood pressure are responsible for up to two-thirds of the cases.

As of February, there were more than 3,400 people in Michigan in need of an organ transplant, according to Gift of Life Michigan. From Jan. 1, 2010 to Feb. 1, 2015, the waiting list added an average of eight people per month.


For more information, go to giftoflifemichigan.org or organdonor.gov.

Edit Module
Edit Module Edit ModuleShow Tags

Archive »Related Content

The Art of Yoga

A local instructor on Crohn’s disease and her path to healing

Meet the Robot Helping to Save Real Lives

SimMan 3G is improving health care one mannequin at a time

Hot Topics in Health

An emergency training workshop, healthcare for Detroit’s homeless, and the aftermath of Puerto Rico’s Hurricane Maria

Be Careful Before You Spritz Your Perfume – You Could Be Breaking the Law

According to a local court ruling, overpowering fragrances are an infraction of the Americans with Disabilities Act

The Former American Idol Contestant Who Is Singing in Remission

Manny Torres on music, faith, and his recovery from testicular cancer
Edit Module
Edit ModuleShow Tags

Most Popular

  1. Review: An Inside Look at the Newly Restored Detroit Club
    The once elusive location returns with an exquisite menu and opulent interior
  2. This Family-Owned Butcher Shop Serves Detroit’s Top Restaurants
    Ferndale’s Farm Field Table supplies grass-fed beef that’s a cut above competitors
  3. Manchester United, Liverpool F.C. to Face Off in Ann Arbor
    U-M will host the International Championship Cup match in July
  4. 50 Years Later: A Look Back at the Tigers’ 1968 World Series Win
    The underdog team staged a mighty comeback during the historic season
  5. Cocktail Recipe: Aquavit Gimlet
    Long Road Distillers recommends a twist on the classic
  6. Outdoor Entertaining: Put the ‘Great’ in Your Party on the Lake
    Sophisticated recipes, guides, and tips for a nautical brunch
  7. Meet the Detroit Startup Churning Out ‘Adult’ Cotton Candy
    Spun Sugar puts spiked and sophisticated spins on the childhood favorite
  8. Could These Minimalist Pieces Be the Future of Furniture?
    Floyd Detroit is crafting beds, tables, and desks that are meant to last
  9. Your Biggest Questions About Sunscreen, Answered by a Pro
    From how often to apply to the ingredients that make it work, a local dermatologist tells all
  10. Everything You Need to Know About Aquavit
    Michigan distillers get hygge with a new trend’s distinct Scandinavian accent