D TOUR Events Draw Potential Donors and Increase Awareness of Organ Donation

Posted on September 30, 2009

Throughout the month of September, Community Cinema presented free preview screenings of the documentary D TOUR. Each of the 36 events between September 1 and September 29 connected audience members with information about local organ donation registries and shared the stories of transplant recipients and the donors who saved their lives. The emotionally moving film follows indie rock drummer Pat Spurgeon on a "dialysis tour" as he waits for a kidney transplant match and tours with his band, Rogue Wave. The film lead to many deeply personal and heartfelt discussions with speakers afterward. 

When D TOUR airs nationally on PBS on the Emmy Award winning series Independent Lens on November 10, 2009 (check local listings) you can still easily connect with the local donor registry in your area. And, you should. The need is dire. Every 13 minutes another person is added to the national organ transplant waiting list. One in nine American adults--- more than 20 million --have kidney disease, and most don't know it. Nationally, about 106,000 people are awaiting transplants of all kinds. In the Puget Sound region around Seattle there are over 1600 people waiting. In the DC area alone, there are nearly 2,000 people waiting desperately for an organ to save or enhance their lives. More than 3,400 individuals live in the New England region waiting for a life-saving organ transplant. 20,000 people on the wait list live in California. 

Every D TOUR event gave audience members a chance to hear the local stories of transplant recipients, donors, doctors, nurses, and/or those living their lives while waiting for a life-saving organ transplant.

Regional organ donor registries we worked with included Gift of Hope Organ & Tissue Donor Network (Chicago), The California Transplant Donor Network (N. CA and Nevada), the National Kidney Foundation of Middle Tennessee (Nashville area), New England Organ Bank, Washington Regional Transplant Community (DC area), Louisiana Organ and Tissue Donor Registry, Life Alliance Organ Recovery Agency (Miami), Gift of Life Donor Program (Eastern PA, southern NJ, and Delaware), and Donate Life Today (WA and Montana). Each of these organizations can give you information about donating in your community. They also offer resources for transplant recipients and patients waiting for a transplant. Through the Kidney Early Evaluation Program (KEEP®) the National Kidney Foundation of Middle Tennessee in the Nashville area 226 people at risk for kidney disease were given free screening tests last year. 

The National Kidney Foundation's nationwide KEEP offers free screening for those at risk - anyone 18 years and older with high blood pressure, diabetes or a family history of kidney disease. KEEP provides three simple tests that determine kidney function to thousands of people each month in dozens of cities across the U.S. Pat Spurgeon's story in D TOUR highlights the need to regularly monitor kidney health for those who are in at-risk categories. In St. Louis we met husband-and-wife speakers, Keya and Darion. Keya was surprised to find herself a perfect donor match for her husband, Darion. “The decision to be a donor was very easy because I wanted my husband alive and healthy and to live a long life with me. The film reminded me of the importance of what I did as a donor.” For husband Darion, “The film triggered feelings I had forgotten. The film was like looking in a mirror. At 23 when I needed a kidney I felt invincible but this film makes you aware that kidney failure can happen to you or someone you know at anytime.” 

Based on observations at our events and talking to our partner organizations afterward, we estimate that at least 50 people signed up to become organ donors with their local registry (including one of our own regional event producers and two ITVS staff members) at D TOUR events. Up to 50 lives can be saved or made better by each donor, which means that about 2500 people could potentially benefit from connections made at D TOUR events in September. June R. Wallace, Community Affairs Coordinator, for California Transplant Donor Network said after the D TOUR event she attended in Oakland,"The filmmaker captured the experience of just what a recipient, their families, and their friends go through while waiting. The emotional rollercoaster of waiting for an organ is devastating. My volunteers were so impressed to see both sides of the process, and it gave them more encouragement to continue this great work they do."


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