The campaign to help Kathy Phippen, a 27-year-old woman from Vassalboro who is awaiting a double lung transplant, recently received a $1,000 boost from the ticket sales and numerous donations given at a public supper in Sorrento.
Phippen, and others like her, now needs the life-saving boost that only a lung transplant donation can provide.
The number of people in need of organ transplants has more than doubled over the past five years, according to Stephen Kudlach of the Kidney Foundation of Maine. Currently, more than 30,000 Americans are waiting for organ transplants. At the same time, however, the number of organ donations has remained relatively static at little more than 4,500 donations per year, resulting in a critical shortage of organs.
Kudlach said the National Kidney Foundation recently conducted a national survey of Americans’ attitudes toward organ donation. “Surprising, we learned that 52 percent of Americans say they have never been asked to sign a donor card,” he said.
The state Kidney Foundation is urging Maine residents to discuss organ donation with their families and sign donor cards as National Organ and Tissue Donor Awareness is being observed this week.
According to Kudlach the state of Maine requires by law that family members of prospective organ donors be apprised of their wishes. Families should know of their loved one’s desire to donate an organ rather than be faced with that information after the prospective donor’s death — a time when family members are experiencing grief and shock.
Kudlach suggests that prospective donors get their next of kin to witness and sign their donor cards.
Phippen, the daughter of Sorrento residents Penny and Louis Sutherland Jr. and Richard Phippen of Augusta, is in the final stages of cystic fibrosis, a hereditary disease marked by diminishing lung capacity as mucus accumulates and clogs the lungs. People diagnosed with the disease generally do not live beyond their teen-age years or 20s.
Doctors at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston have determined the young Vassalboro woman to be a good candidate for a lung transplant.
Phippen, whose lung capacity is now less than 30 percent and is expected to live only two more years, has been awaiting a suitable lung donor for the past six months.
“Donors are far and few between,” Penny Sutherland said. Many people erroneously think the decal affixed to their driver’s license is sufficient in alerting medical professionals of their willingness to make an anatomical gift upon their death, she said.
People who want to know more about organ and tissue donations or to receive a Uniform Donor Card can contact the Kidney Foundation of Maine toll-free at 1-800-639-7220.