TEXAS VIEW: How you could save a life

By Houston Chronicle

John Miller has now spent almost five years of his life waiting for a new heart.

He always figured he was healthy. As a chiropractor running a successful practice in Pasadena, he didn’t smoke, didn’t drink and he even ran mini-triathlons. Then one day, after a routine 2-mile jog, he suffered a heart attack.

Within a half-hour of his first symptoms, doctors scrambling to save his life installed a stent in his heart. They also discovered he had seven different cardiac conditions. Surgeons later put a steel titanium pump in his chest. He needs a heart transplant, and he’s been on the waiting list since November 2013.

“They’ve given me some time, maybe, to get that phone call,” he said during a meeting with the Houston Chronicle editorial board.

About 115,000 Americans like John Miller are waiting for that phone call, hanging on for a lifesaving organ transplant. More than 3,000 of them live here in the Houston area. The harsh reality is that more than 20 people die every day in the United States waiting for donated organs.

April is National Donate Life Month, an opportunity for agencies like Houston’s LifeGift to call attention to the literally vital need for more organ donors. Texas has special reason to pay attention, and not only because our city is home to a medical center renowned for pioneering work in organ transplants.

A decade ago our state, where about 11,000 people are now waiting for life-saving organs, had the slowest-growing donor registry in the nation. Today it’s the second largest in the United States.

Most of the credit goes to the Texas Department of Public Safety. For the last dozen years, when Texans have visited DPS offices to pick up their driver licenses, they’ve been given the option to sign up as organ donors. Last year the Donate Life Texas Registry logged its 10 millionth name. Eight little words uttered by DPS clerks — “Would you like to become an organ donor?” — have saved countless lives.

And yet, the need for donated organs still outpaces the supply. LifeGift officials say about half the people who could register haven’t. As a result, you could fill Minute Maid Park and the Toyota Center twice over with all of Americans waiting for life-saving organs.

So John Miller spends a lot of his time at health fairs, asking people to sign up as donors. He also visits DPS offices, thanking drivers who’ve registered. And he waits for his phone to ring.

Do him a favor. If you haven’t already signed up, go to www.donatelifetexas.org. Become an organ donor.