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Local man shares how organ donation saved his life

April is national Donate Life Month, so organizations dedicated to advocacy raised a Donate Life flag at Boise City Hall.
Posted at 5:26 PM, Apr 10, 2024
and last updated 2024-04-10 19:26:43-04

BOISE, Idaho — On Wednesday morning, organ donation advocacy groups, like Envision Sight, raised awareness at Boise City Hall as April is Donate Life Month. Multiple people shared their story about why organ donation is important to them.

  • Idaho News 6 spoke to Rick Brittell, a heart recipient who was saved when he got his transplant.

(The following is a transcription of the full broadcast story.)

In a plaid shirt, Rick Brittell stands in front of Boise City Hall,
listening to speakers at a Donate Life event who share similar stories.

"Age 28 they noticed I was having trouble with my heart," Brittell said.

As Rick got older, his heart got worse.

"I could walk from the front door to the mailbox, then back in. That was it for the day," explained Brittell.

On Wednesday morning, he saw this flag raised and talked to peers. Something he wouldn't have been able to do without a donor.

After waiting 7 months in Salt Lake City for a heart transplant, his phone rang.

"She said you know that call you've been waiting for? I said yeah, I'm thinking about heading home. She said, 'well, this is that call.' There's no way of explaining what your reaction is when that happens," Brittell said.

After speaking to Rick I wanted to understand the state of the issue here in Idaho, but I couldn't find any statistics.

So, I called Brady Dransfield with the non-profit Donor Connect, which raises education about transplants in Utah, Idaho, and Wyoming.

"The reason why we can't find statistics, or don't have the statistics like we do in Utah is because there are not any transplant centers there," Dransfield explained.

He explained to me the closest place to get a transplant for Idahoans, Salt Lake City or Seattle.

"You've got to be able to drive within a distance because those organs are viable for only a certain amount of time and if you don't make it goes to someone else," Dransfield said.

Dransfield tells me about 56% of Idahoans with a driver's license are registered donors, slightly lagging behind the national average of 60%.

Back at City Hall, Rick says organ donation is not only life-saving, it's life-changing. 10 years ago he couldn't make it to the mailbox, now he walks 5Ks.

"Night and day difference from the time I couldn't do anything to the day I came to in the ICU. It was like deep breath, 'wow this is what it's like to be able to breathe all the way completely,'" Brittell said.