(BPT) - By Ryan Harris, Super Bowl 50 Champion
Professional athletes are often celebrated as “heroes.” I witnessed this during my time playing for the Denver Broncos and other teams. But during the month of August, which is National Multiethnic Donor Awareness Month, I’d like to talk about some true heroes: organ, eye and tissue donors.
My father is the recipient of a donated kidney, thanks to the choice made by his heroic living donor.
My father has been a lifelong inspiration, supporting my dreams of being a professional athlete and Super Bowl champion — and he would not be here today if not for the generous gift of organ donation. This incredible act has profoundly impacted my entire family, and I am truly grateful.
I’ve been so inspired by seeing the impact that our donor hero had on my father, that I have become a passionate advocate for organ, eye and tissue donation. Right now, across Colorado and Wyoming, nearly 1,500 people are waiting for a transplant. Of those waiting, 50% are from multicultural communities, a percentage that is even higher nationally.
Multicultural populations are among those with the greatest need of lifesaving transplants yet sign up to become donors and donate at lower rates. A disproportionate percentage of people on the transplant waiting list are people of color because of the higher incidence of disease that leads to end-stage organ failure, such as diabetes and hypertension. While donated organs are not matched according to race or ethnicity, transplant matches made within ethnic groups can be more compatible. This is one of the reasons why it’s so important for more people of color to register their decision to be organ, eye and tissue donors after death.
National Multiethnic Donor Awareness Month aims to honor the lives of those that have given the gift of life while raising awareness of the need for more people of Colorado to consider donation. In sharing the impact that a living donor has had on my father, and my family, I am hopeful that I can help inspire others.
One donor can save up to eight lives through organ donation and save or heal more than 75 through eye and tissue donation. Anyone can register to be an organ, eye and tissue donor, regardless of age, race, medical history, religion or income. Even those with chronic conditions, such as hepatitis and diabetes, can register to give the gift of life at any age.