Doctors at the Mayo Clinic perform an organ transplant. l Mayo ClinicDoctors at the Mayo Clinic perform an organ transplant. l Mayo Clinic
Doctors at the Mayo Clinic perform an organ transplant. l Mayo Clinic

More organ donors needed despite record transplants

Published on January 12, 2024 at 3:34 pm

A record number of organ transplants were completed nationwide in 2023, but a surgeon at Mayo Clinic in Jacksonville says more organ donors are needed.

Doctors did 46,632 transplants last year, up from 42,880 the year before, according to a news release this week from the nonprofit United Network for Organ Sharing, which serves as the nation’s transplant system under contract with the federal government.

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Yet, the national waiting list for an organ transplant stands at more than 103,000 people, including 5,200 in Florida, according to the Organ Procurement and Transplant Network. A total of 3,302 transplants took place in Florida last year.

Dr. Shennen Mao, a transplant surgeon with Mayo Clinic, said the number of people waiting for organs is increasing faster than the number of people added as possible donors.

“There continues to remain a strong need and many, many people that really can benefit from the gift of life,” Mao said.

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The U.S. Health Resources and Services Administration says someone is added to the waiting list every 10 minutes and 17 people die each day waiting for an organ transplant.

Mao said a combination of more efforts to sign up donors and better use of the organs donated would help more people on the waiting list.

The United Network for Organ Sharing said transplants increased in 2023 partly because of policy and medical advancements. New policies removed race from kidney function measurements, increasing equity with lung transplants and making it easier to filter organs, which allows for organs to be transported quicker.

Becoming an organ donor could save someone like former Jacksonville City Council member Matt Schellenberg, who received a new liver in February 2000.

Schellenberg said he still gets emotional thinking about needing a new liver. He had a liver disease called primary sclerosing cholangitis and was basically dying before his transplant.

“Thinking that back when I got it that I’d be living 24 years in another month — to see all this happen is extraordinary,” Schellenberg said.

In the nearly 24 years since his transplant, he’s seen his children grow up, graduate from high school and college, become working adults and parent his own grandchildren.

Schellenberg said he’s grateful to the person who gave him a second chance at life. He encourages people to become donors if they can.

There are a few ways you can sign up to donate in Florida. You can go to to register, or you can sign up when you complete a driver’s license application.

author image Reporter, WJCT News 89.9 email Steven Ponson has six years of experience covering news in Jacksonville and Northeast Florida. Prior to arriving on the First Coast, Steven also worked in radio in Orlando. He attended the University of Central Florida where he earned a degree in radio and television. Steven has been a reporter, producer, anchor and board operator. Outside of work, Steven loves to watch sports, cook delicious cajun food (as any good Louisiana native does) and spend time outdoors.

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