Chris Moody, a senior at Redan High School, was shot in the
head on March 20, 2004 after a group of teenagers with a gun
followed him to his familys Stone Mountain home. The African
American teenager later died at Emory University Hospital, and
his mother made the difficult choice to donate his organs. Six
transplant patients benefitted, some with their very lives.
his mom to make that decision at such a critical time is a great
and amazing thing, says Kimberly Jacob Arriola, assistant
professor in the Rollins School of Public Healths Department
of Behavioral Sciences. We need people to do that more
(above with Reverend
Byron Thomas) is
principal investigator on a five-year National Institutes of
Health grant that seeks to increase the number of minority organ
donors by developing a culturally sensitive intervention that
will encourage minorities willingness to donate.
to a high incidence of diabetes and high blood pressure in the
African American population, blacks are at greater risk of renal
failure and require kidney transplants at a much higher rate
than members of other ethnic groups. There is a lower chance
of rejection if the organ is also from an African American.
the 85,653 people currently on the National Transplant Waiting
List, 58,406 are waiting for kidneysabout 35 percent of
whom are African American (African Americans make up about 12
percent of the American population).
total number of deceased organ donors since 1988 is 85,92465,612
of whom were white, and 9,808 of whom were black, according
to the Organ Procurement and Transplantation Network.
and Jennie Perryman, director of public policy and external
affairs for the Emory Transplant Center, are working with black
churches to explore attitudes toward organ donation and develop
interventions that incorporate religious views. They held focus
groups with clergy and parishioners around metro Atlanta, such
as the Fort Street Memorial United Methodist congregation led
by the Reverend Byron Thomas.
is some support for donation. Its not all negative,
Arriola says. The negative views that do exist are based
on the belief that one needs all their organs to get into heaven,
and that there are inequalities [of class and race] in the transplant
system. One man said, If all the organs are going to go
to Buckhead, why should I donate?
an African American researcher, I
had to be honest with the participants and say, Youre
absolutely right, there are inequalities in the system. But
we cant use that as a reason to not contribute to the
pool of available organs, because black people are disproportionately
dying. Were the ones impacted.
Kanter, chief of cardiothoracic surgery and director of the
heart and lung transplant program at Childrens Healthcare
of Atlanta/Egleston, says more minority donors would mean more
donors overall, which helps everyone on the waiting list.
is a misconception that minorities dont get donor organs.
Thats definitely not true for hearts, says Kanter,
who has performed 156 transplants since coming to Emory in 1988.
That is very important to me. Weve never turned
down a patient who needed a heart transplant because of race
or lack of ability to pay. When we do that, Ill quit.
a loved ones organs after they die is tough, he admits.
Its never a nice time. The death is always something
catastrophic and unexpected. But heres an opportunity
for some sense to be made of this tragic event.
children he sees daily will die without a new heart. Theres
nothing like a dialysis machine that they can stay on. These
are peoples sons and daughters, and there are plenty of
black sons and daughters who need transplants.
way to increase donation rates is to encourage people to talk
to their families about their desire to be donors.
your family doesnt know that youre supportive, more
often than not, they err on the side of conservatism,
Arriola says. The thing with minority families is that
there is usually a larger, more extended family involved in
making the decision. Even if someone is a card-carrying organ
donor, and their husband says yes, but the family says no, it
can create a huge conflict.M.J.L.