I spend a lot of time diving through the transplant data that UNOS publishes, which is marvelously easy to do on the organization’s Web site. One of my favorite stats to look up is one of the simplest ones they offer: How many living donor transplants have happened so far this year? It’s heartening to me to see those numbers, even though they represent the pain, suffering, sadness, and emotional hardship of people who needed transplants.
I suppose I enjoy following the data most because it reminds me just how not alone living donors are in this country. Case in point: As of now, UNOS reports that 87,987 living donor kidney transplants have been conducted in this country since 1988 (the earliest year UNOS includes in its online reports). 87,987! That’s about the population of Trenton, New Jersey, or Duluth, MN. That’s almost enough people to completely fill the Rose Bowl stadium in Pasadena or Wembley Stadium in London; it’s heftily way too many to fit into the confines of Lambeau Field in Green Bay. Imagine walking through the streets of Trenton or Duluth and knowing that every single person you encounter in the city limits is, like you, a past living kidney donor. And knowing that every year about 6,400 people will be moving to town! That’s right. If you’re donating a kidney this year as a living donor in the United States, you’re in the company of about 6,400 others. Out of a population of 301 million people in the U.S., 6,400 is not a huge number. But it’s far, far away from being alone.
For living liver donors, the numbers are smaller, largely due to the riskier nature of the surgery in the years leading up to the past few. (With new advances and increasing proof of success, I wonder how much living donation will increase for liver transplants.) To date, my living donation of my liver to Joe was one of 3,588 such transplants in the United States since 1988. About 300 happen per year. That’s hardly a city, but it’s enough to fill in a nice little section or two at a stadium. It’s more people than I’m friends with on Facebook and LinkedIn combined!
Still, the yet-relatively small numbers we represent within the greater U.S. population just underscores the importance of sticking together, of finding each other and connecting when we can.
All the nation’s living donors: Notre Dame stadium couldn’t hold us!