There are 115,000 people nationwide currently awaiting a life-saving organ transplant – 4,000 of them are New Jersey residents.
According to Elisse Glennon, vice president and chief administrative officer, executive director, NJ Sharing Network Foundation, the need for donors is further exaggerated because less than one percent of deaths of potential donors result in the viability for organ donation.
“The truth is that when most people die, they die of a cardiac death, and all of their organs shut down immediately. When this happens, their organs are not transplantable,” Glennon says. “In order to be an organ donor, you need to be on a ventilator in a hospital [when you pass away]. … Our chances of saving the people on the transplant list are very slim.”
So, while there are more than 2.5 million registered organ and tissue donors in New Jersey alone, there is still a need for more. Along with working closely with hospitals and transplant centers, the NJ Sharing Network also tirelessly works to increase awareness and educate people about the life-saving benefits of organ and tissue donation and transplantation.
Part of this work has aided in getting the Donate Life Transplant Games of America to take place in New Jersey in 2020.
The Transplant Games are a biennial Olympic-style festival that’s purpose has shifted over the years. Originally meant to show how one could live a normal and fulfilling life after receiving a transplant, the games have expanded to also include donor families, tissue recipients and living donors.
“The purpose now is to bring the entire donation and transplant community together for camaraderie and to raise awareness,” Glennon says.
A collaboration of local partners, including the NJ Sharing Network, helped secure a bid to bring the games to the Meadowlands in 2020 (July 17-22). Glennon says that this will be the first time the games are held in a major market, which is a significant step in forwarding the community’s mission of educating the public on organ donation.
Other partners include Hackensack Meridian Health, RWJ Barnabas Health, Novartis, American Dream, Meadowlands Regional Chamber of Commerce and the Meadowlands Liberty Convention and Visitors Bureau.
American Dream, which is set to open next Spring, is slated to provide space for the games, including hosting various ceremonies and even an “athletes village” for the game’s participants.
The NJ Sharing Network recently launched savenjlives.com, a website that allows people to search by town and see how many residents are awaiting a life saving transplant.
“[You realize] it’s not 4,000 random people that you don’t know. You could have 10 people in your little New Jersey town [waiting for a transplant]. [Seeing that] makes it much more real,” she adds.
This year, the 2018 Transplant Games are being held in Salt Lake City, and will take place August 2-7.