LOUISVILLE, Ky. (June. 27, 2023) – The Donate Life Kentucky leadership, which encompasses two non-profit organizations, Kentucky Organ Donor Affiliates (KODA) and Trust For Life (Trust), are proud to announce they have joined the Living Donor Circle of Excellence. This program is an initiative from the American Society of Transplantation (AST) with support from strategic partner the National Kidney Foundation (NKF). It celebrates employers who implement internal policies that provide salary support to their employees who choose to be living organ donors.
“Our employees are already dedicated to ending the wait for those on the national transplant waiting list. We educate our state on the importance of organ donation and how living donors can make such a difference,” said Shelley Snyder, Executive Director of Donate Life Kentucky. “It only makes sense that we would provide financial support to those very employees should they choose to be living donors themselves. It truly is an honor for us to join the Living Donor Circle of Excellence.”
Since the new policy has been implemented, Donate Life Kentucky has already had an employee step up to use the benefits and save the life of someone else. Jessie Nutgrass, a KODA Donor Center Supervisor, became the first person in the organization to use the program when she became a living donor this spring. Nutgrass and her recipient – a father, grandfather and family friend – had their surgeries performed at UK Healthcare’s Transplant Center, and both are doing well post-surgery.
John Gill, MD, Founder of the Living Donor Circle of Excellence, said, “Living donors are heroes amongst us; their gift is life-saving for patients in need of a kidney or liver transplant and has a huge positive impact on society. Patients facing life-threatening diseases are able to live normal lives, raise their families, and participate in their communities. By supporting living organ donors, we are also building stronger communities.”
Today, more than 100,000 patients are waiting for a life-saving kidney or liver transplant. Of the transplants performed in 2021, living donors accounted for 24% of kidney transplants and 6% of liver transplants. Financial disincentives are a barrier for many potential living organ donors. Living organ donation typically includes a four to six-week recovery period, and many will use their vacation time or take unpaid absences during this period to donate.
“Every day, people die on the waitlist,” said Kevin Longino, Chief Executive Officer of the National Kidney Foundation and a kidney transplant recipient. “We need to rip down every possible barrier to becoming a living donor. Members of The Circle are doing just that by supporting those willing to help others struggling with a life-threatening illness and helping to reduce any financial burden from living donation.”
The Circle encourages other employers to follow KODA and the Trust to help others needing life-saving organ transplants. You can learn more about AST’s Living Donor Circle of Excellence here.