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Organ, Tissue and Eye Donation Program is Strong in Minnesota

MINNEAPOLIS, MN – In 2019, LifeSource, the organ procurement organization for the upper Midwest, coordinated the most organ, eye and tissue donations in our 30-year history. Strong transplant center partnerships, passionate advocates and – most importantly – generous donors and their families contributed to this record year for donation.

In 2019, LifeSource coordinated the donation process for:

  • 206 organ donors (a 13 percent increase from 2018)
  • 631 donated organs (a 13 percent increase from 2018)
  • 786 tissue donors (a 17 percent increase from 2018)
  • 567 eye donors (a 154 percent increase from 2018)

“We are relentlessly pursuing a day where no one dies waiting for a life-saving transplant,” said LifeSource CEO Susan Gunderson. “Last year was so successful because of strong partnerships with incredible regional transplant centers, skilled and dedicated LifeSource staff and the generosity of donors and their families.”

In our 30-year history, LifeSource has cared for over 17,000 families, including the wife and daughters of Tom Schultz – who was honored during the December 9 Minnesota Vikings halftime show. Tom was a statistician for the Minnesota Vikings for 25 years who suffered a fatal brain aneurysm at age 56. In his death and through his decision to become an organ donor, Tom provided the miracle of life for Quinton Jones, a native of Bermuda who traveled to the Mayo Clinic in hopes of receiving a life-saving heart and liver transplant.

Medical Advancements Contribute to Organ Donation Increases

Contributions to the record-breaking year for donation include:

  • A former three-time kidney recipient was able to donate their lungs and liver.
  • Over 6 percent of the 2019 donated organs LifeSource coordinated came from donors with Hepatitis C, some cancers or the HIV virus. They were safely transplanted in recipients without those diseases; historically, these organs might not have been accepted because of concerns about spreading the infections to the recipient. Strong partnerships with our regional transplant centers made these donor and recipient matches possible.

Although anyone can register, only 1 percent of people actually qualify to become an organ donor. Deceased organ donation is so rare because donors must pass away in a hospital on ventilated support, meet medical criteria and experience brain death or a non-survivable injury.

More Minnesotans are Saying “Yes” to Donation

Ultimately, donation is only possible if generous individuals and families first say “yes.” Minnesota’s donor designation increased from 67 percent in 2018 to 70 percent in 2019; that’s compared to the 58 percent national average. Minnesotans are leading the country in donor designation, demonstrating their values of generosity, life and hope through donation.

“Donation is only possible if people say ‘yes’,” Gunderson said. “We need everyone to join this fight and register.”

Currently, more than 3,200 people in Minnesota, North Dakota and South Dakota are waiting to receive a life-saving transplant; but there are simply not enough donors to meet the growing demand. We need 100 percent participation from our community.


About Organ Donation: Facts & Statistics

  • One person can donate up to eight organs depending on the health of each organ.
  • Upper Midwest Waiting list:
    – Minnesota: 2,696
    – North Dakota: 148 people are waiting for a new kidney
    – South Dakota: 373 people are waiting for a kidney, liver or pancreas
    – Caucasian: 2,241
    – Native American: 142
    – Black: 331
    – Asian American: 285
  • 70 percent of Minnesotans are registered donors (58 percent national average).
  • Every day, 22 Americans pass away while waiting for a match; every 10 minutes a new name is added to the waiting list.
  • When it comes to the process of matching donors with recipients, there are many factors that play a role such as blood type, body size, health, donor distance, tissue type and time spent waiting.
  • Contrary to common misconceptions ethnicity, gender, religion, and financial status do not affect the donation process. So, as more people check the box, more people can get a second chance at life.

About LifeSource
LifeSource is the non-profit organization dedicated to saving lives through organ, eye and tissue donation in the Upper Midwest, serving more than seven million people in communities across Minnesota, North Dakota and South Dakota. LifeSource promotes donation in our communities through the Donate Life brand. We are relentlessly pursuing a day when no one dies waiting for a life-saving transplant.