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John Najarian, Bob Bruininks, Keith Fahnhorst, and representatives of "Get Game, Give Life" hold a ceremonial organ donor card signed by Bruininks.

John Najarian (left), Bob Bruininks (second from left), Keith Fahnhorst (back right), and representatives of Get Game, Give Life pose with a ceremonial organ donor card signed by Bruininks. Watch the PageLink(86538) public service announcement.

Bruininks signs organ donor card

Halftime event highlights importance of organ donation

By Rick Moore

February 24, 2006

During halftime of the Golden Gopher women's basketball game on February 23, University president Bob Bruininks announced his decision to sign an organ donor card. Bruininks was joined by Dr. John Najarian and former Gopher football standout Keith Fahnhorst at the ceremony, which was organized by "Get Game, Give Life," a national awareness campaign designed to educate college students and others about the need for organ donations.

Najarian, a world-renowned scientist and surgeon and a pioneer in the U's transplant program, stressed the dramatic need for organs. According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, more than 90,000 people are currently on the national organ transplant waiting list. While an average of 74 people receive an organ transplant each day, another 18 people die each day waiting for transplants that never occur because of a shortage of donated organs. As of February 21, more than 2,300 people are waiting for organ transplants in Minnesota.

Najarian said that by signing an organ donor card, "You're telling your family, 'If anything happens to me, I want to be a donor. I want to save a life.' And you won't regret it."

Fahnhorst was a Golden Gopher football player in the early '70s who went on to play 14 seasons in the National Football League with the San Francisco 49ers. He was a part of two Super Bowl victories, and was selected to the Pro Bowl in 1984. But when Fahnhorst's kidneys began failing due to a genetic kidney disease, he found himself in dire need of a new kidney. Fortunately for him, a non-relative Fahnhorst had met only once stepped forward and offered to give him one of his kidneys. Najarian led a team of doctors who performed the transplant surgery two years ago.

"If it wasn't for the kindness of people like [the donor], I wouldn't be alive," Fahnhorst said.

Bruininks pointed out the prolific work of the University of Minnesota's Transplant Center--one of the nation's pioneers in transplant care. In 1966, University of Minnesota surgeons performed the world's first pancreas transplant, and since then more pancreas transplants have been done at the University than anyplace else in the world. By 2003, more than 6,000 kidney transplants and 9,600 total transplants had been performed by University of Minnesota physicians.

And Bruininks urged that more people volunteer to become organ donors so that those numbers can continue to grow accordingly. "Consider what you can do to give life and opportunity to other people," he said. "This is a very important opportunity for you to make a contribution for so many people who need your help."

For more information on organ donation, visit Donate Life or United Network for Organ Sharing.