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Local Organ Donors Increased 10%, Record Number Tissue & Eye Donors

LifeSource, hospitals and the community work together to save more lives

MINNEAPOLIS – LifeSource – the organ, eye, and tissue recovery first responders for Minnesota, North Dakota, South Dakota and western Wisconsin – announced that in 2021 they made possible 203 organ donors, the second highest number in its 32-year history saving 572 lives. That’s a 10 percent increase from 2020. Tissue donors were also at an all-time high at 862, healing more than 64,650 lives – a 34 percent increase from 2020. Eye donors increased by 20 percent with 579 local individuals giving the gift of sight.

View the 2021 infographic.

“We are incredibly proud of how many organ, eye and tissue donors’ wishes we were able to honor in 2021 and how many lives were saved and healed,” said Susan Gunderson, LifeSource Chief Executive Officer. “LifeSource is aggressively pursuing numerous, exciting ways to reach our audacious goal of 1,000 in transplants in 2027. There are more than 3,000 local individuals – and more than 100,000 people nationally – on the waiting list counting on us.”

2021: 5 Incredible Milestones Achieved

  1. 5,000 Organ Donors: In May 2021, LifeSource honored the wishes of the 5,000th organ donor since official reporting began in 1990.
  2. Total Annual Organ Donors: Hennepin Healthcare honored the wishes of 38 generous organ donors, a one-year high for total donors at any hospital in the LifeSource 3-state service area (previous highest annual total was 29).
  3. 10,000 Tissue Donors: On November 4, 2021, LifeSource honored the wishes of the 10,000th tissue donor since the program began in 1999.
  4. Annual Eye Donor Record: On December 23, 2021, LifeSource exceeded the highest annual eye donors since the program began in 2016 (previous was 569).
  5. Most People Ever Registered Donors: As of December 2021, more than 3.8 million people throughout Minnesota, North Dakota and South Dakota have checked the “DONOR” box at their local driver’s license office.

“Our professional partnership with LifeSource is one that benefits all Minnesotans,” explains Dr. Thomas Wyatt, Senior Medical Director of Hennepin Healthcare’s Emergency Department – the busiest in the State. “From the referral process to their commitment to equity and education, more people waiting for a life-giving organ transplant can be hopeful.”

Looking Ahead: Time-Saving Innovation

In 2021, LifeSource pursued new methods to save or stop time – the pervasive enemy in donation and transplantation. These longer-term investments will help reach the goal to transplant 1,000 organs in 2027 – a 65 percent increase from 2021. Progress made included:

  • 10-Mile Test Flight: MissionGO, LifeSource & Mercy Hospital transported the world’s first human pancreas via unmanned aircraft (drone).
  • Real-Time Organ Tracking: GEGO global tracking devices are now attached to organ packages and provide real-time data to LifeSource and transplant centers throughout the process.
  • Investment in Organ Bank Research: LifeSource joined The University of Minnesota and others across the country in forming a Biostasis Research Institute in pursuit of creating a human “organ bank.”
  • 5 New Director Roles to Support Our Bold Aims of Saving More Lives & Inclusion: Focus areas included Diversity, Equity & Inclusion, Hospital Services, Human Resources, Information Services and Organizational Outcomes.
  • 15 New Hospital Liaison Roles: In support of the new “Hospital Collaboration Model” implemented in 2021, LifeSource team members are on-site at hospitals regularly to support care teams with existing and potential donation referrals.

Even with LifeSource’s milestone-filled year, the need for donors remains critical. One person is added to the national transplant waiting list every 10 minutes, and over 3,000 people locally are waiting for a life-saving transplant.

While support for organ, eye and tissue donation is strong in the upper Midwest with 58 percent of people registered, we need more community participation. Everyone can register as an organ, eye and tissue donor – regardless of age or medical history. Register at


About Organ Donation: Facts & Statistics

  • Organ donation is extremely rare. Only 1 percent of people who die get the opportunity to give those gifts. That’s due to a variety of medical and circumstantial criteria, including being free of active cancer and passing away at a hospital on ventilated support.
  • It takes many people working in concert to make the donation process happen in a short period of time. Watch this video to learn more about the donation process.
  • One person can save eight lives by donating organs; heal more than 75 lives by recovering tissue and restore sight for up to 10 individuals through eye donation.

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. We are relentlessly pursuing a day when no one dies waiting for a life-saving transplant.