YNHH goes for organ donor record

Yale-New Haven Hospital wants to register a record-breaking number of organ donors.
Yale-New Haven Hospital wants to register a record-breaking number of organ donors. Photo by Jacob Geiger.

If Yale-New Haven Hospital officials have it their way, the hospital will break the Guinness World Record for organ donors registered in eight hours.

The hospital announced yesterday that it is taking on the challenge of breaking the current one-day donor world record next Monday to raise awareness about organ donation during the Barack Obama administration’s National Donate Life month. This is the first time the hospital has challenged the community to participate in a Guinness World Record, said Yale-New Haven spokesman Mark Dantonio at a Monday press conference in the Park Street Auditorium.

“Organ transplant is a life-saving procedure, but the supply of organs is too scarce,” said Sukru Emre, director of the Yale-New Haven Transplantation Center. “We hope this event will spotlight the critical need for more registered organ donors and be part of the Guinness World Records.”

The organ donor registration event, “Don’t Wait! Donate,” will take place on Monday from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m., and will be supervised by a Guinness World Record judge.

The current world record is a held by Utah-based The Quest for the Gift of Life Foundation — more than 765 people registered to become organ donors during an event held by the organization at the Springville City Arts Park in Springville, Utah on August 28, 2010.

To advocate for organ donation, Yale-New Haven Hospital will set up registration sites in the hospital’s Atrium lobby at 20 York St. and the Hunter Courtyard at the corner of York and Cedar Streets on Monday. To register, prospective donors must be at least 18 years old, Dantonio said.

At Monday’s press conference, Trumbull, Conn., resident Alice Coletti, a 22-year-old nursing student, shared her experience of obtaining a liver transplant. She said that at age 10 she was diagnosed with a rare disease, primary sclerosing cholangitis, which damaged her liver. As she finished her sophomore year of college, she said, she was suffering from liver failure. Her family members were not compatible as donors, she said, and she did not qualify for the priority donation list. Her “desperate parents,” she said, emailed students in her college, and an anonymous donor quickly appeared. She later met him, she added, to thank him and ask why he gave her part of his liver — to which he answered, “It was the right thing to do.”

Emre said one of the challenges of soliciting organ donors is a misconception that a doctor may let his patients die more willingly if they are organ donors. He said that this is not at all the case, as it is not the doctors who have the ability to decide what happens to the dying patient, but rather the family working together with end-of-life specialists.

“Currently we estimate that 50 percent of patients at Yale-New Haven Hospital do not consent to donate their organs,” Emre said. “Yet cases like Alice’s show that people are really altruistic. We need to raise awareness and break misconceptions.”

New Haven resident David Clark said at the press conference that after his wife was involved in an accident that left her unconscious, he followed her wife’s requests to have her organs donated, though he said it was hard for him, and his wife’s mother raised religious objections. After this experience, he registered as a donor as well, he said.

Dantonio said that while the hospital aims to break the record, it would still be pleased if only 500 people signed up.

According to Donate Life America — a national non-profit alliance of organ and tissue donation associations — 113,115 patients nationwide are waiting to receive a transplant.

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