WINDSOR, Conn. (WTNH) -- More minorities are on the waiting list, due to their higher risk of developing conditions such as high blood pressure and diabetes.
About 18 people die every day waiting for an organ transplant.
Life depends on donors, but the need is greater among minorities who make up more than half of those on the waiting list.
Caitlyn Bernabucci with LifeChoice Donor Services in Windsor said, "about 80 percent of the waiting list is made up of people waiting for a kidney transplant."
A successful organ transplant though, relies heavily on the donor's ethnic background.
Bernabucci goes onto explain, "people who are more genetically similar, of similar ethnic racial backgrounds tend to be more genetically compatible and make a better pair when it comes to matching between donors and recipients."
However, not enough African, Hispanic and Asian Americans sign up as donors. Only about 33 percent are registered.
Fear is a big obstacle overall.
"Donation does not become an option or an opportunity until after someone has died," said Bernabucci. "Only the organ procurement organization has access to the information. Hospitals do not have access to the donor registry, so they do not know whether or not their patients are registered."
Jean Reyes is Puerto Rican. She had a herniated disk.
"What they did was remove the disk that was pinching the nerve and they put in a bone graft to maintain the space," Reyes said.
The bone was donated. While it did not require a genetic match, she had a donor.
"It was a difficult position to be in," Reyes said, "but I knew what he wanted."
Jean's donor was her husband John, who died months before from a thoracic aortic aneurysm.
"This was my last opportunity to honor him," she said.
His wish to be a donor benefited 47 people.
"If we want to have that better possibility of finding a match then we need to be willing to be our neighbor's helper in life and in death."
Only about two percent of the total number of registered organ donors are actually eligible to donate.
That's because to donate an organ, death must occur in a hospital.
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