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UPDATED: Longtime N.M. Law Bolsters Organ Donation Awareness

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — People 15 and older can register to be an organ donor when getting or renewing a driver’s license or ID card through the MVD

Jaime Munoz was struggling to breathe last summer. Doctors told him if they couldn’t find him a lung transplant by December, pulmonary fibrosis would likely get the better of him.

On Wednesday, he stood before a crowd at one of the busiest Motor Vehicle Division offices in the state to make a plea to those getting their driver’s licenses: Sign up to be an organ donor.

“I’m living proof that organ donation does work. You’re saving not just my life, but you’re saving my family. You’re saving the people who are my loved ones,” the 38-year-old double lung transplant recipient told The Associated Press.

Gov. Susana Martinez and state leaders across the country have signed proclamations declaring April as Donate Life Month.

In New Mexico, more than 60 percent of adults are registered as organ donors. State officials said the majority of New Mexicans have registered, thanks to the state’s driver’s license laws.

Those who are 15 and older have the option of registering to be an organ donor when they obtain or renew their driver’s license or identification card through the Motor Vehicle Division.

The law has been in place for about 35 years, and donation advocates say that has enabled New Mexico to develop a successful registry program.

State Taxation and Revenue Secretary Demesia Padilla, whose office oversees the Motor Vehicle Division, joined Munoz for the visit to the MVD office. Padilla said Munoz’s story was compelling.

Having never thought much about it, Padilla acknowledged that she hadn’t registered as an organ donor — until Wednesday.

“It just doesn’t affect the person who receives the organ. It impacts entire families,” she said.

New Mexico is in the top 10 states nationally for organ donor registration, and Padilla said her office plans to keep asking applicants whether they want to register.

Nearly 700 people are awaiting organ transplants in the state, and 30 percent of them are Native Americans who need kidney transplants, according to New Mexico Donor Services spokeswoman Maria Sanders.

The organization has gained more support for organ donation over the years from the Catholic community, but Sanders acknowledged challenges remain among other demographics, including Native Americans due to cultural beliefs.

“A lot more Native Americans are becoming aware about the need within their own community, which is slowly changing the minds of individuals about organ donation,” she said.

Sanders said New Mexico has seen the program grow over the past 10 years. Now, people can register online.

“We have created here in New Mexico a very pro-donation atmosphere and it’s supported from the governor all the way down,” she said.

Padilla said the program likely grew more after MVD customers heard Munoz speak.

Munoz said his daughter was only 11 when he was first diagnosed.

“They told her I was dying. So for me to be here, and this hero of mine to save my life really inspired her to do more in life. What she has accomplished in her schooling has been amazing,” he said.

Thanks to the transplant, Munoz will get to see his daughter graduate in May and his 11-year-old son grow older.

Munoz is six months out from his transplant. Just a couple of weeks ago, he was able to play kickball with his kids.

“That was the most amazing thing,” he said. “It’s all amazing, and I hope people get that, that they can understand that. When you get that little heart on that license it means a whole lot more than what you think.”

 

 


 

 

Wednesday, 13 April 2011 14:31

 

More than 60 percent of New Mexico adults are registered as organ donors, and state officials say the majority of them have registered thanks to New Mexico’s driver license laws.

Those who are 18 and older have the option of registering to be an organ donor when they obtain or renew their driver’s license or identification card through the Motor Vehicle Division.

The law has been in place for about 35 years, and donation advocates say that has enabled New Mexico to develop a successful registry program.

State officials scheduled a stop Wednesday at an MVD office in Albuquerque to recognize the program.

New Mexico Donor Services says nearly 700 people are on the waiting list in New Mexico. The organization says 30 percent are Native Americans needing kidney transplants.

 

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