Black History Month: 90% of Mississippi organ transplant list are African Americans

What is the most needed organ for Black Mississippians? Kidneys.
Published: Feb. 23, 2023 at 10:38 AM CST
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PINE BELT, Miss. (WDAM) - As we continue to celebrate Black History Month in the Pine Belt, we have a conversation that many may not know needs to be had - the importance of organ donations.

You may ask how organ donations fit the topic of Black History. However, the Mississippi Organ Recovery Agency (MORA) reports that 71,000 people of color are on the donor transplant list in the United States. In Mississippi, there are 1,300 people on the state transplant list, with 90% African American.

What is the most needed organ for Black Mississippians? Kidneys.

“Well, African Americans tend to be donors the least, but we have the highest need,” said MORA Community Outreach Coordinator Belinda Lane. “So we want people, as they start to think about Black History, to certainly think about the fact that they can be a lifesaver to some other African American that they know.

“But so many times, there are myths in our community that people take into consideration, and they hold onto those myths.”

Lane said only about 35% of people in Mississippi are registered as organ donors, much lower than the average 54% registry in other states.

“It’s a huge disparity in terms of (people) being able to receive a life-saving organ,” said Lane. “Kidneys are the most needed organ for sure.”

While stereotyping has led some to believe African Americans eating habits have a lot to do with their increased need for organ transplants, Lane believes it’s more hereditary.

“(Nutrition is) not always the case because of the hereditary issues that we receive,” said Lane. “A lot of times, we have diabetes, and we have hypertension. We have so many health restrictions that prevent us from being able to do the things that we need to do in terms of health issues. But those are the things that really prevent us from living our best lives.”

MORA reports the waiting list for an organ can vary from weeks to months to years to months, depending on the individual and the supply.

“Recently, a gentleman who was on the waiting list, he was only on that waiting list for a week,” said Lane. “He went to Tulane, and he received both a pancreas and a kidney, which is very rare. But, then there are some issues where folks are on the waiting list for years at a time so that it will vary in nature.”

If you would like to become a donor, you can register with a driver’s license at your local Department of Motor Vehicles or with a hunting-fishing license through the Mississippi Department of Wildlife, Fisheries & Parks. You can also register HERE.

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