CHICOPEE, Mass. (WWLP) – Six-thousand critically ill New Englanders are desperately waiting for an organ transplant. The Donor Awareness Flag was raised over Chicopee City Hall Thursday, in the name of those whose lives depend on receiving an organ transplant.

Liver transplant recipient Kathleen Balakier expressed her gratitude to her unknown donor by helping raise the donor awareness flag across from Chicopee City Hall Thursday morning. She’ll always be grateful to that someone whose organ donation allowed Kathleen to observe yet another birthday.

Kathleen told 22News, “I received my organ on March 31st, 2001, a life saving organ, a life saving for sure, I would say thank you for the gift of life.”

Chicopee Mayor John Vieau proudly expressed his commitment to become an organ donor as he urged everyone to make that commitment on behalf of so many Americans living in jeopardy.

“You have over 100,000 people waiting for organ donation across this country, and knowing that the United States leads that process in organ donation,” said Mayor Vieau.

Eighty percent on that waiting list of more than 100,000 are in desperate need of a kidney transplant. There are many means of registering as an organ donor.

Are you registered as an organ donor?

April is National Donate Life Month and Donate Life America is encouraging all Americans to sign up to become organ donors. According to the organization, more than 41,000 organ transplants were received from 20,300 donors in 2021, and over 85,600 corneal transplants helped people recover their vision.

One deceased donor can provide organs that can save up to eight persons, restore eyesight to two people, and offer tissue that can heal more than 75 patients. But, while there are over 169-million people registered in the U.S. only three in 1,000 people who die can donate. By raising awareness of the need through a month long campaign more people may be willing to sign up, increasing the odds of healthy and positive matches.

There are several ways to register to become an organ donor, and one of the easiest for Massachusetts residents is through the Registry of Motor Vehicles (RMV). The RMV reports that there are 2,791,788 people who have active credentials with organ and tissue donor designations in the state. Registration is free.

Massachusetts residents can also register at New England Donor Services or at the Donate Life America website.

Anyone who registers as an organ donor when they apply for or renew their driver’s license or ID card will have a heart symbol added to their card to show that they are an organ donor. Those who enroll as a donor outside of renewal can order a replacement driver’s license or ID card if they want a license/ID with a heart symbol. However, they do not need to obtain a new card as they will be registered with the Donor Registry. Organ donors must reconfirm their donation status each time they renew their Massachusetts driver’s license or ID card.

When a person registers as an organ and tissue donor, they will be entered into the Massachusetts Donor Registry. Though registration is legal consent for donation, it is recommended that people discuss their wishes with family and friends.