Organ donors save thousands of lives each year - WSMV Channel 4

Organ donors save thousands of lives each year

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Thousands of people die each year while waiting for an organ transplant, but many Middle Tennessee doctors are pushing to reduce that number.

A flag was raised Monday at Centennial Medical Center, but it wasn't the American flag or even the Tennessee state flag.

It signified that someone just received a kidney transplant and a new lease on life.

"We need kidneys. There are 2,200 people waiting for a kidney in Tennessee," said Ralph Atkinson, with Centennial Medical Center.

Tennessee has eight kidney transplant centers, and scores of people who can die without the life-saving transplant they need.

No one knows that better than Dale Willis, who received a kidney from his sister 20 years ago after he had spent four years on dialysis, nearly incapacitated.

"When you're on dialysis, you're just living day-to-day. I didn't think much about the future, but once I got my transplant, I was ready to live," Willis said.

One of the most memorable recent cases was a kidney donation made by a Nashville firefighter - a man who already saves lives for a living - to his longtime friend and co-worker, Al Baltz.

"He'd do the same for me. That's what we do as firefighters. Every time we make a call, it's to help somebody in need that you don't even know," said donor Jason Upchurch. "And to not do that for somebody that you do know and love as a friend would just be wrong."

Upchurch and the many other donors hope their stories inspire others across the state to do the same as more than 2,000 lives in Tennessee hang in the balance.

"Everybody always relies on someone else to do the right thing. Sometimes you just have to take it upon yourself to so that," Upchurch said.

Becoming an organ donor is easy. Just indicate your desire to help the next time you re-new your driver's license.

For more information on becoming a donor, or to sign-up online, visit:

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