Organ donation

Save Lives: Sign Up to Be an Organ Donor

Jeffrey Schwartz, MD, and Daniel Dilling, MD

Life-and-death decisions are made every day. But you can make one simple decision today to donate life by registering to be an organ, tissue or bone marrow donor.

More than 120,000 people – men, women and children – need an organ transplant, according to current data from the Organ Procurement and Transplantation Network (OPTN). Another person is added to the list every 10 minutes.

But they may not receive one in time: 8,000 people a year die waiting – 22 people a day.

"There is no greater gift in life than the gift of life," said Loyola cardiothoracic surgeon Jeffrey Schwartz, MD, surgical director, lung transplant.

One organ donor can save eight people, and one tissue donor can help more than 75. "We take for granted the ability to breathe and walk across a room, shower or lie flat in bed," Dr. Schwartz said. "Organ donation transforms a recipient's quality of life."

Tens of thousands of patients undergo organ transplants every year for heart, lungs, liver, pancreas, kidneys and intestines. Thousands more receive donations of bone marrow, skin, heart valves, cornea and tissue.

"I have witnessed the transformation that occurs for donor families and for the organ and tissue recipients," said Daniel Dilling, MD, Loyola's medical director of lung transplant. "Registering to be an organ and tissue donor is a quick, simple process that ensures you are part of that transformation.”

What you can do

Registering as an organ, eye and tissue donor is simple. All you need is your driver’s license. In Illinois, you can sign up through the Secretary of State's office by visiting a facility where driver’s licenses are issued, on the website or by calling 1-800-210-2106.

You also may register at Remember to tell your family you have registered so they may support your decision. There are other ways to donate life, such as by donating blood, blood platelets or bone marrow.

Living donors also can help patients who need a kidney or liver transplant. Such transplants use a portion of the healthy donor's liver that will regenerate and heal.

“There are so many people fighting for their lives,” said Kim Grosvenor, RN. “Without organ donation, those who are suffering will continue to suffer and may not be saved,” Ms. Grosvenor said.

Nicole Barry, RN, also works with patients and families of organ donors and those receiving a transplant. “The day when [a patient] gets the phone call about the organ is the greatest day,” Ms. Barry said. “They are getting the best gift of their life.”

Ted Sulkowski knows this from his own experience. His health was deteriorating a little over a year ago when the “call of a lifetime” came.

Mr. Sulkowski is thankful every day for the liver and kidney transplant that saved his life. His Loyola hepatologist Jamie Berkes, MD, said: “Without transplantation, he would not be alive.” 

April is National Donate Life Month, which celebrates those who make the life-saving decision to be an organ, eye and tissue donor.

Donation facts

  • You can be a donor at any age.
  • Celebrity or financial status are not factors in getting a transplant.
  • Donation is possible with many medical conditions.
  • All major religions approve of organ and tissue donation.
  • A national computer system and strict standards are in place to ensure ethical and fair distribution of organs.
  • A healthy person can become a living donor by donating a kidney, or a part of the liver, lung, intestine, blood or bone marrow.
  • Learn more organ donation facts.

Source: UNOS (United Network for Organ Sharing) Learn more about:

Jeffrey Schwartz, MD, is a thoracic and cardiothoracic surgeon at Loyola Medicine and is surgical director of lung transplant. His clinical interests include adult cardiac surgery, aortic aneurysms, aortic valve surgery, familiar aortic disease, familial thoracic aortic disease, heart surgery, heart transplant, lung transplant, Marfan's syndrome, mechanical cardiac assist devices, mitral valve repairs, thoracic aortic surgery, thoracoabdominal aneurysm repair, valve-sparing aortic roots replacement and vascular surgery.

Dr. Schwartz earned his medical degree at Emory University School of Medicine. He completed residencies at University of Illinois Medical Center in general surgery and at University of Southern California School of Medicine in cardiothoracic surgery.

Daniel Dilling, MD, is a pulmonologist at Loyola Medicine and is medical director of lung transplantation. His clinical interests include advanced lung disease, alpha-1 antitrypsin deficiency, cystic lung disease, eosinophilic granuloma of the lung, interstitial lung disease, langerhans cell histiocytosis pulmonary disease, lung disease, lung transplant, lymphangioleiomyomatosis (LAM), lymphangiomatosis, pulmonary alveolar proteinosis, pulmonary fibrosis, rare lung diseases and Sjögren's interstitial lung disease.

Dr. Dilling earned his medical degree at Loyola University Chicago Stritch School of Medicine. He completed his residency at Loyola University Medical Center in internal medicine and completed a fellowship at Loyola University Medical Center in pulmonary and critical care medicine.