Placerville Man Who Received a Transplant Says “It Was the Year of the Heart”
Sacramento/Placerville: Roger Stembock of Placerville, husband and father to two daughters, suffered three life-threatening heart attacks before his heart finally gave out. But, on January 24, 2015, he was given a second chance, when a stranger gave him the gift of life and he received a heart transplant.
“My wife and I call it ‘the year of the heart,’” says Stembock. “And it was because of the generosity of my donor that I now feel better than I have in 25 years. Just before my surgery, I had pretty much resigned myself to the fact that it was my time to go – time to settle my affairs. You know how there is a billion dollar lottery right now? That means nothing — I won the biggest lottery there is – a new life.”
Stembock’s odds for a second chance were improved by the fact that Sierra Donor Services (SDS),* the nonprofit organ recovery agency serving the greater Sacramento area, hit an all-time high for saving lives in 2015. The agency had a record 89 deceased donors vs. just 68 donors the previous year – a 31% increase. Those donations translated into 275 life-saving transplant surgeries – 29% more than in the previous year (213).
Collaboration with Hospital and Transplant Centers
The dramatic success can be credited to a number of factors, according to the Executive Director of Sierra Donor Services, Monica Johnson. “Sierra Donor Services continues to work towards our vision of universal acceptance of organ and tissue donation, by developing ever stronger relationships with our donor hospitals and transplant centers. We also work closely with the medical community to place every organ every time. And finally, the Donate Life California organ and tissue donor registry is now the largest in the world, with nearly 13 million registered donors.”
Nationally, donations increased, as well. In fact, organ transplants performed in the United States in 2015 exceeded 30,000 for the first time annually, according to preliminary data from United Network for Organ Sharing (UNOS). UNOS serves as the Organ Procurement and Transplantation Network (OPTN) under federal contract.
“This landmark achievement is a testament to the generosity of the American public to help others through donation, and their trust in the transplant system to honor their life-saving gift,” said OPTN/UNOS President Betsy Walsh, J.D.
The 30,000 threshold was surpassed with transplants performed as of December 19, 2015. For the year, 30,973 transplants were reported, representing an increase of nearly 4.9 percent over 2014 and continuing a three-year trend of annual record numbers. Approximately 81 percent of the transplants (24,982) involved organs from deceased donors, who can donate multiple organs. Nineteen percent (5,986) were made possible by living donors.
What can you do?
To get the facts or sign up to become an organ and tissue donor, visit: www.sierradonor.org. Or sign up to give life through the DMV when you apply for or renew your driver’s license. Say “Yes!” to life every time.
*Sierra Donor Services is a Dialysis Clinic Inc. Donor Services (DCIDS) subsidiary. SDS is a nonprofit agency dedicated to meeting the needs of the community by providing families the option of organ and tissue donation for transplantation and research. SDS serves Inland Northern California in the recovery of organs, and Northern Nevada in tissue recoveries. www.sierradonor.org.