COLUMBUS (WCMH) — Despite making up less than 13 percent of the U.S. population, African Americans are the largest minority group in need of organ transplants.
“Diabetes and high blood pressure runs in our community rampant,” said Marshall Cheatham, a kidney recipient from Columbus.
As a Black man, Cheatham said he is no stranger to the dangers of high blood pressure or diabetes.
He lost his own mother to diabetes, and almost a decade ago, discovered he was suffering from kidney failure.
“They thought I had a stroke, based on the symptoms that I was presenting at the emergency room,” Cheatham said.
After being placed on dialysis, Cheatham joined more than 100,000 others on the national transplant waiting list, which has an average wait time of at least five years.
However, he never gave up hope that a transplant was in his future, and eventually one day, he got the call that a donation was ready for him.
“It’s been a real good journey,” Cheatham said.
But here in Ohio, more than 3,100 people – approximately 700 in central Ohio – are still waiting for an organ transplant and groups like Lifeline of Ohio are fighting to lower that number, especially for those in the Black community.
“If you go into any dialysis center, the majority of what you see are people of color, and primarily African Americans, and so just sharing a story like that, you can see that lightbulb moment in the community,” said Demia Kandi, a consultant with Lifeline of Ohio.
Kandi, who primarily works with Columbus’ African American population, said a big part of her job is simply educating people on the benefits of becoming an organ donor after death.
It’s a mission that’s become Cheatham’s now, too.
“You can’t take it with you, I mean you can take it with you, but someone here could’ve used it, and I think giving the gift of life is the best give that you could possibly ever give,” Cheatham said.
There are several ways to register to become an organ donor, the most common being you can sign up at your local BMV.
Potential donors can also find more information at Lifeline of Ohio’s website.