The drive for more organ donors in Letcher County had pulled in scores of people in the past year, Letcher Circuit Court Mike Watts said.
Since taking office a year ago, Watts has been seeking out organ transplant recipients and getting permission from them to put their pictures on the walls of his driver’s license office as a close-to-home reminder to people that donating organs doesn’t just help people other places.
“As people come in and renew their licenses and see people they know … that encourages them, I think, to register,” Watts said. “Close to 100 people signed up at the Mountain Heritage Festival in September.”
The number of new people registered as organ donor was up 119 in June, and Watts said the number who have registered since was about 115 the last time he checked. The number of people coming forward to tell their stories of receiving transplants has also increased.
“Last year we had zero stories, and now we have 28,” Watts said. The Trust for Life is looking for more people now who are willing to tell their stories, and having them sign releases so it is legal for the Trust to publish them.
“It’s going well,” Watts said. “It’s going very well.”
In January of 2018, just 12 percent of Letcher Countians were registered. As of March 2019, just 13.2 percent of Letcher County adults had registered as organ donors, compared to 97 percent in Clark County, where the largest percentage of organ donors reside. Letcher County was in last place.
Watts said the newest figures will be out soon, but Letcher County was still next to last the last time figures were released. There are more than 2 million donors in Kentucky.
According to the Kentucky Circuit Clerk’s Trust for Life, more than 1,000 Kentuckians need an organ transplant, and more than 113,000 are waiting nationwide. A new person is added to the list every 10 minutes, and 22 die every day before an organ match is available.