You did things ordinary and extraordinary, thanks to a donor.
Every life saved in 2023, every new future, all the tomorrows made possible, were thanks to more than
donors and their families
2023: a year of more lives saved
“I can say that I am living now.”
an increase of more than 8.7% over 2022 and a new annual record in the U.S.
Mariela never stopped dancing, even as autoimmune liver disease stole her health, even as liters of fluid filled her body, even as her strength, built from years of dance training, wasted away. Even in the hospital, she invited a dear friend to come help her dance. “My body could be sick but my soul cannot be.”
In August 2023, Mariela received a liver transplant. By Halloween, “I got to dance a few good songs,” she says. Soon she hopes to start teaching again. Grateful for the donor whose gift will live in every step, in every student, in every partner whose arms she will dance in once again, she wants others waiting for a transplant to have their second chance as well. “Lots of people don’t know that signing up to be a donor is just a little check on your driver’s license—that’s all it takes. Just a check on your ID could be a great help for people.”
“The transplant made me grow on so many levels,” Mariela says. “I can say that I am living now. I enjoy every second of my life.”
“Nobody is going to know if you don’t talk about it.”
For the first time, more than
Caring for a mother and grandmother with autoimmune diseases, Shamekka had to grow up young. Now she manages multiple autoimmune conditions of her own, including lupus, which can lead to kidney failure. A self-described “professional patient,” she also keeps up a busy life as a cybersecurity expert, a health advocate, a motivational speaker and a mother of three. Slowing down is not her speed.
In November 2022, Shamekka was listed for a kidney transplant. Because of her complex health profile, she knew she would be a difficult match. She and her husband began exploring living donor kidney paired donation. Then, unexpectedly, came the news. A match was available—on the opposite side of the country. In February 2023, Shamekka received a kidney flown from Connecticut to California.
As someone experienced with navigating the complexities of both chronic illness and the healthcare system, Shamekka is a patient advocate who is a “voice for the voiceless,” she says. She encourages every patient to become their own advocate and to speak openly about their experiences. “I want people to know that if they want change to happen, they have to be a part of it,” she says. “You are trying to raise awareness. Nobody is going to know if you don’t talk about it.”
More than 14,500 Black patients, disadvantaged by calculations for estimating kidney function, were credited with adjustments to their time on the transplant waitlist.
of these patients received transplants in 2023
“The meaning of life for me has completely changed.”
Vicky & Zoë
For the first time, more than
including a record 658 living donor transplants.
Diagnosed at 27 with autoimmune liver disease, “I was given a prognosis of approximately five years until complete liver failure,” says Vicky. “It was terrifying.” Told she would soon need a transplant, “I felt stuck,” she recalls, “like I couldn’t move on with my life.”
As Vicky grew sicker, testing found that her husband couldn’t be her living donor. Vicky’s friend Zoë, however, had volunteered to complete the testing as well. “Zoë and I didn’t even know each other as well as some of my friends,” recalls Vicky. “But she was so happy to do it. There was no hesitation.”
“Everything was aligned,” agrees Zoë. “I felt like I was in a great position to do this.”
Once Zoë was confirmed as a match, their friendship grew deeper. They dressed as two lobes of a liver for Halloween. They had a “friendsgiving” with a liver-shaped cake. Following the surgery, they even left the hospital on the same day.
“I think it is an incredible thing that science has figured out how to take a piece of one person’s liver and save someone else’s life,” says Zoë. “It’s science, but it’s magic.”
And for Vicky, who for the first time in years is learning what it feels like not to be sick all the time, “The meaning of life for me has completely changed. Knowing that someone could do something so selfless for you is incredible.”
“Transplant is not the end of anything. It is the beginning of something new.”
In another milestone, more than
An increase of more than 10% over 2022
Before he was even two months old, Randall received a heart transplant—a first gift of life. With that heart, he enjoyed a regular childhood. He fell in love with the high-school sweetheart, Angee, who would become his wife. He became a talented musician.
After not quite 20 years, however, his heart began to falter. There were procedures, stents, interventions to try to buy time. But eventually he was going to need another transplant, his doctors told him. That “eventually” hovered over Randall and Angee’s future, a shadow cast on the plans and dreams and the life they were building together.
Then suddenly Randall got very sick, and “eventually” arrived. “There was a lot of fear,” Angee recalls. “We didn’t know what was going to happen.”
In the fall of 2023, Randall received a new heart—and a second gift of life, 30 years after the first. Now he and Angee can take charge of their lives, Randall says. No longer just surviving, “We can breathe, we can live, we can move forward,” says Angee.
“Transplant is not the end of anything,” says Randall. “It is the beginning of something new.”
Taking action, driving change
2023 marked another record year in lifegiving donations and transplants. To save even more lives and achieve the goal that every patient on the national waiting list has an equal opportunity to receive a transplant, the nation’s donation and transplant community remains committed to improving the system.
Learn more about how we’re making the system more equitable and more efficient.
The UNOS Action Agenda – a series of recommended reforms and improvements, including:
- Research on “pre-waitlist” data to better understand and address barriers in access to the transplant waiting list.
- Legislation to make it easier for donor organs to be transported in the cabin of commercial airplanes, instead of the cargo hold, to help lifesaving organs reach patients more quickly.
The Expeditious Task Force – A new initiative from the Organ Procurement and Transplantation Network (OPTN) to address key issues including increasing transplant, improving efficiency, and decreasing non-use of donor organs.
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