Be my bloody valentine and donate

    This Valentine’s Day, you might consider giving the greatest gift of all: the “”gift of life.”” Just ask Olympic snowboarder and organ transplant recipient Chris Klug. Last April, Klug visited UCSD for the nascent campus student organization “”Donor Dudes.”” Klug distributed autographed posters to students who displayed the “”life dot”” on their driver’s license to encourage life-saving organ donations. For years, Klug was at the top of his sport, quietly battling liver disease Primary Sclerosing Chaolangitis, the same disease that killed football great Walter Payton.

    In addition to traveling the world for snowboard competitions and pursuing his other loves, surfing and kite-surfing, Klug serves as the national spokesperson of America’s largest annual one-day life-saving donation drive, Saturn National Donor Day. The day has been held on or near Valentine’s Day for the last six years. National Donor Day is sponsored by 16 national nonprofit donor agencies and it addresses each of ways that one can donate: blood, marrow, and organ and tissue.

    Blood saves approximately 10,000 lives every day, and while 60 percent of adults are eligible to donate, only 5 percent do so.

    “”I used to give blood in high school, but I haven’t done it since I’ve come to college. I guess I am just busier,”” Thurgood Marshall College freshman Danny Neidlinger said.

    UCSD students are not the only ones who have difficulty finding time to donate.

    “”There is currently a blood shortage in San Diego County and across the nation,”” said Tammy Glenn, a volunteer coordinator for the San Diego Blood Bank. “”It is typical during this time of the year, usually beginning around the holidays, when people are busy and may not make the time to donate. Of course, the need for blood is constant, regardless of the holiday season, and the San Diego Blood Bank urges anyone who is at least 17 years old and in general good health to donate blood.””

    Another type of life-saving donation encouraged this Valentine’s Day is marrow donation. Each year, about 30,000 Americans are stricken with leukemia and similar diseases that are potentially treatable with blood stem cell transplants. One-third of those affected will find a match within their family. The other two-thirds will look to the National Marrow Donor Registry for a match from a stranger. Americans in general and members of minority ethnic groups in particular are encouraged to join the registry. To join the registry, only a small amount of blood is taken and then your tissue characteristics are recorded in a database. You will be called to donate if someone with matching tissue is in need of a transplant. Even if you cannot give blood, you can still register to be a marrow donor.

    Also driving the Saturn National Donor Day are the 80,000 patients on the transplant waiting list. On average, 18 people die every day because a suitable organ donor is not found in time. To commit to being an organ donor, people put pink “”life dots”” on their California driver’s licenses. Lifesharing Organ and Tissue, San Diego’s government-chartered organ procurement organization, stresses discussing organ donation with families because permission must always be given by the donor’s family. Everyone is encouraged to be an organ donor, regardless of age or health problems.

    “”Being a donor is such an easy way for anyone to save a life,”” Sixth College sophomore Christine Nguyen and vice president of Donor Dudes said. “”Donating blood takes 15 minutes and you’ll save a life. Deciding to be an organ donor is easy too, and when the time comes, you can help up to 50 people. We encourage everyone to give the gift of life this Valentine’s Day, along with candy and flowers.””

    If you want to celebrate Valentine’s Day 2004 by giving the “”gift of life,”” there will be a blood drive by the San Diego Blood Bank Feb. 17 to Feb. 19 at Price Center Ballroom A. Organ donor stickers will also be available at the blood drive. To make an appointment to donate blood, or for more information about blood and marrow donation, visit http://www.sandiegobloodbank.org. Information about organ donation is available at http://www.lifesharing.org

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