Twenty-one years ago, Ron Rioux of Nashua received a liver transplant — and a new perspective on life.
This Valentine’s Day, which is National Organ Donor Day, he is urging New Hampshire citizens to consider registering to become an organ donor.
“I have no idea who saved my life, but I am always very grateful, even 21 years later,” said Rioux, who had suffered a genetic blood disease that attacked his liver.
Rioux said he can still recall the relief he felt when he got the phone call from New England Medical Center that he had a liver waiting for him.
The need for life-saving transplants grows every day, according to Matt Boger of New England Donor Services. About 108,000 patients are on the U.S. transplant wait list.
Last year, more than 1,027 lives were saved in New England because of organ donors, Boger.
On Friday, Rioux helped Boger raise a flag outside Nashua City Hall recognizing National Organ Donor Day and raising awareness about how to register as an organ and tissue donor. The easiest way is at the Division of Motor Vehicles.
“One individual through their eight organs can help save up to eight individuals, and we greatly appreciate those people for doing that,” Boger said.
“Organ donation is very, very rare. It does not happen often. In fact, only three percent of all deaths happen in a manner that one can become an organ donor.”
It is more likely that a person will need a transplant than become a transplant donor, he said.
Sen. Cindy Rosenwald, who was present for Friday’s flag raising, said organ donation “is absolutely the most selfless gift somebody can give.”
Rioux’s late wife, Susan, was so touched by Rioux’s life-saving transplant that before her death from cancer in 2017, she registered to become an organ donor.
“She ended up in hospice and eventually donated her eyes to a complete stranger,” Rioux said.
About 110 million people in the U.S. are registered as donors in the country. Meanwhile, the number of people in need of transplants continues to rise, Boger said.
Nashua Mayor Jim Donchess proclaimed Sunday as Organ Donor Day in the Gate City. He said that more than 6,000 New Englanders are waiting for live-saving transplants.
“It is the greatest gift — the gift of life,” Boger said. According to Donate Life America, 8,000 people die each year for lack of an organ transplant.