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Thursday, Dec 7, 2023

Building a Bridge to Life and a Better Tomorrow

Working with 215 local hospitals and 10 transplant centers, OneLegacy is the bridge to life for 20 million Southern Californians waiting to receive a lifesaving or life-altering organ, eye or tissue transplant. Last month, that bridge’s future – and the future of all waiting recipients – became a bridge to an even better tomorrow when we held a “topping out” ceremony for our new state-of-the-art headquarters in Azusa.  

The new offices reflect OneLegacy’s tremendous growth and leading edge innovation in donation practices. It will also provide the space and resources – and most of all state-of-the art diagnostic, telemedicine and surgical capabilities – needed for us to save and heal even more lives through donation.  When open next year, this facility will serve as a critical connector for Southern California’s regional healthcare system by building upon the success of OneLegacy’s Redlands Recovery Center that has helped increase lives saved and healed by some 15% since it opened in 2018.  The Azusa Donor Recovery Center will triple our recovery capacity while providing a new home for critical research that will improve donation and transplantation for all.

The centerpiece of the 4.45-acre property, which OneLegacy acquired in 2019, is a 98,000-square-foot, three-story office building which OneLegacy has been diligently upgrading to accommodate administrative and clinical operational needs and more than 300 employees. In addition, OneLegacy is constructing another 60,000-square-foot building that will allow for a conference and training center, dining services, 24-hour call center and laboratory services. The clinical portion of the campus will house a state-of-the-art transplant recovery center (with seven operating rooms, seven ICU beds, cardiac catheterization, CT scanner, pathology and serology labs), a 16,000-square-foot conferencing space and therapy rooms for donor families.  This new location will allow OneLegacy to improve organ and tissue recovery operations, by freeing up hospital ICU beds and operating rooms and providing donor families and transplant centers with a more suitable environment to honor donors and fulfill donor family wishes, while increasing organs and tissues available for lifesaving and healing transplantation, thereby reducing the waiting times for grateful recipients.

Also to be housed in the new facility is the OneLegacy Foundation that has helped champion and improve organ, eye, and tissue donation and transplantation through public education and scientific research aimed at increasing donor registration and improving transplant outcomes for donors, their families and recipients. Over the past three years alone, the Foundation has donated more than $5.6 million to further research and raise awareness of the power of organ and tissue donation and transplantation while passionately collaborating with community engagement programs that help inspire people to take action in support of organ and tissue donation.  
Working in partnership with all of Southern California’s hospitals and local coroners’ offices, and thanks to the generosity of so many, last year alone OneLegacy enabled the transplant of a record-setting 1,661 organs from 548 donors, marking the sixth consecutive year of record-breaking increases in lifesaving and healing organ donation and transplantation. OneLegacy also led the nation in lung transplants and had a record setting year in heart transplants. In addition, more than 190,000 lives were healed, and their vision was restored through tissue and cornea donation in 2020; a number especially impressive given that COVID-19 caused a ban on elective procedures.

We are particularly proud of the fact that OneLegacy’s work mirrors that of our community as Los Angeles is home to the most diverse region in the nation boasting 185 distinct languages and cultures (OneLegacy’s seven-county service area is comprised of 69% Hispanic, Asian and Black as compared to 31% White population).  Seventy-two percent of local transplants facilitated by OneLegacy have been received by a person of color, with 49% going to Hispanic recipients. OneLegacy’s donation rates for each of these groups exceed the US average and is in the top 10% of organ procurement organizations nationwide. These numbers are the result of our public education investments, our targeted community partnerships, and our diverse staff and our multi-cultural competency training, all of which are continuing in earnest.

We are also proud to be part of the United States’ organ donation network which is comprised of 57 non-profit organizations that play a critical role in our nation’s healthcare system.  This network is recognized as the best in the world, with the highest deceased donor transplant rate of any country and a donation rate nearly double that of Europe’s. Nationwide, more than 40,000 organs are transplanted each year, reflecting a 50 percent increase in donation over the last seven years.

As a result of outreach education efforts spearheaded by OneLegacy and others, the number of people on the waiting list for a lifesaving organ has decreased by 10% over the past five years. While we honor and celebrate this achievement, there is much work to be done.  More than 107,000 Americans including 21,000 Californians and 8,500 people at the OneLegacy donation service area transplant centers, are still waiting for a donor. Organ donation remains emotionally challenging and very rare and the need for transplants is growing far faster than potential donors. Less than 1% of all deaths qualify for donation and only 70% of possible donors choose to donate.  

The opportunity to donate and to receive a lifesaving transplant knows no national, racial, ethnic or religious boundaries, nor sexual orientation. One organ donor can save up to eight lives, one cornea donor can restore sight of two people and one tissue donor can help as many as 75 others heal.  The waiting list is diverse in both age and race – donation could save the life of a young mother undergoing dialysis, a newborn baby with a heart defect or a 75-year old in need of a lung after battling COVID-19.

You can save the life of a neighbor, parent or friend, or someone you don’t even know by registering to be a donor at your local DMV or by visiting onelegacy.org/register

Tom Mone is chief executive officer of OneLegacy, a nonprofit organization dedicated to saving lives through organ, eye and tissue donation in seven counties in Southern California. For more information, visit OneLegacy.org, like the organization on Facebook, or follow it on Twitter and Instagram.

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