Fewer organs available for donation

LOS ANGELES Right now more than 21,000 Californians are waiting for an organ transplant. One-third of them will die waiting.

One Orange County man needs a heart transplant to stay alive. He and thousands of others waiting for a donor organ are faced with new obstacles.

Sean Conkrite doesn't see his 2-year-old son Joseph every day because leaving the Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center would mean his life. He must stay until a donor heart becomes available. Without one, eventually it would go into complete heart failure.

Sean was born with transposition of the great vessels. The plumbing in his heart flowed backward. When he was 18 months old, surgeons rewired it so the right side of his organ would do the work of the whole.

Now at 41 years old, his heart is enlarged and barely pumping.

Every year, organ donations continue to declines. Experts say that's because fewer people are dying. Traffic fatalities are considerably down and so are homicides and crimes.

"On the other hand, we also have better therapies to help keep patients alive longer and help keep them stable until a heart transplant does become available for them," said UCLA cardiologist Dr. Tamara Horwich.

Horwich remains hopeful for Sean Cronkite.

Sean faces another obstacle when it comes to finding the right match.

"My only setback is my size," said Seasn. "I'm a very tall individual. I'm six-five and a half."

Only a large heart could do the job. With the odds stacked against them, all Sean and his wife can do is wait and do their best to educate others. They ask everyone to talk with their families about organ donation.

"Think of your fellow man, because even though if you don't know somebody it could benefit somebody," said Sean.

"Please think about it," said Sean's wife. "I know it's a very tough decision for you, but just remember there are people there that really need it."

A pacemaker and a fine balance of medications are keeping Sean alive, hopefully long enough to find a new heart.

You can sign up to be an organ donor when you apply for or renew your driver's license.

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