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Florida Tax Offices Support 'Donate Life' In April

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Dave Dunwoody, WUWF Public Media
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April marks the 15th annual National Donate Life Month, and Escambia County officials Monday morning kicked off the local campaign to increase the number of organ donors. 

Tax collector employees here and in Florida’s other 66 counties are participating in the month-long effort co-sponsored by Florida’s Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles.

“Organ donation starts with a simple question; ‘Would you like to be a superhero and save a life?’” said Escambia County Tax Collector Scott Lunsford.. “It starts there. By saying ‘yes,’ you can save the lives of up to eight people, save the vision of two people, and affect as many as 75 people with your organ donor tissue.”

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Credit Dave Dunwoody, WUWF Public Media
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Escambia Co. Tax Collector Scott Lunsford

Tax office employees help register potential organ donors year-round by asking all driver license customers if they would like to join the registry. Eighty-eight percent of Florida’s donor registrations now occur through such transactions, including more than 54 thousand new donors in 2016.

Escambia Sheriff David Morgan provided two examples of organ donations’ life-saving value, including a deputy who nearly died in the line of duty during an altercation with a suspect in 2010.

“Jeremy Cassidy is alive today because of the organ donor program,” said Morgan. “Jeremy lost both of his kidneys and his spleen; underwent numerous surgeries in order to save his life. And it was because of caring people. More recently, when we lost Kayla Crocker to the murder spree of [William] Boyette and [Mary] Rice, Kayla was also an organ donor.”

Louanne White, who serves on Florida’s Donate Life Board, is the board’s liaison for Escambia County and says Florida has maintained a donor designation rate of 50 percent for the past two years.

“Escambia County has been in the top 10 counties throughout Florida for the past several years,” White said. “Escambia County has a donor designation rate of 60 percent; that’s a testament to the fine people of Escambia County.”

Currently, there are more than 5,300 Floridians on the waiting list for an organ transplant. Organs that have been successfully transplanted include the heart, kidneys, liver, lungs, pancreas, intestine, and thymus. Tissues include bones, tendons, corneas, skin, heart valves, nerves and veins. 

Eighty percent of those awaiting a transplant, says White, are awaiting a new kidney.

“The average waiting time for a kidney from a deceased donor is 3-5 years,” said White. “Registered donors via the state registry accounted for 43 percent of recovered organs; 49 percent of recovered tissue, and 52 percent of recovered eyes in 2015.”

The blue, green and white “Donate Life” flag was hoisted at the Marcus Pointe tax office, and will fly beneath the U.S. and state flags for the month of April.

More information can be found at www.EscambiaTaxCollector.com.