Addressing disparities between African Americans and organ donation a ‘divine assignment’ for Wichita nurse

Better Health & Wellness

WICHITA, Kan. (KSNW) – In her two jobs, Midge Dempsey sees life and death.

She enjoys a career as a labor and delivery nurse and also a family services coordinator for the Midwest Transplant Network, where her self-described “divine assignment” began.

“I did not realize there was a lack of African American donors,” Dempsey said.

She says disparities exist between African Americans and the medical system stemming from a lack of trust, pointing to examples like Henrietta Lacks and the Tuskegee Syphilis Study.

The act of organ donation often comes with questions or doubts. For example, some question the standard of care they’ll be provided if they are listed as an organ donor. Others think their health is too poor for someone to make use of their organs. Dempsey does her best to dispel any myths so that every person can make an informed decision about donation.

Dempsey points to a large number of African Americans awaiting kidney transplants for problems like diabetes and hypertension.

“The reason why we need more African Americans to step up to the plate and become donors is because there is such a low percentage of African Americans who donate,” she said.

Compatible blood and tissue types are more likely to be found among members of the same ethnicity, making it important for people from minority groups to register as donors.

According to Midwest Transplant Network, 500 people in Kansas await lifesaving transplants. By registering to be a donor, you can save as many as eight lives (for example: releasing two people from dialysis treatments by donating kidneys) and enhance the lives of up to 100 more people through bone and tissue donation, which can help repair injured bones, joints and other tissues.

The act of organ donation can bring peace to families dealing with senseless losses, knowing their loved one lives on in the body of another. Dempsey has never had a family regret donating their loved one’s organs.

“What better gift can you give than to save someone’s life?” Dempsey said.

Dempsey says it’s important to have these conversations surrounding organ donation with family before facing an unexpected loss so your requests can be honored appropriately.

To register to donate, click here.

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