Miguel Lopez wakes up every day and looks forward to his new job, knowing he is helping to save lives.
Lopez, a Little Rock native, has been working with a non-profit organization, Arkansas Regional Organ Recovery Agency, since December. He travels around the state as a communications specialist who educates the public about organ, eye, and tissue donation.
“Every day that I get to go to work, I’m doing something that directly or indirectly is going to help restore someone’s life,” said Lopez, who is earning a master’s degree in public administration at the University of Arkansas at Little Rock. “That motivates me.”
The Arkansas Regional Organ Recovery Agency mission is to save lives by maximizing the opportunities for organ, eye, and tissue donation in Arkansas. This is accomplished through continuous hospital involvement, which includes hospital training, and through community involvement by providing public education. The organization services 64 out of 75 counties in the state.
Lopez’s outreach is mostly focused on the Hispanic community. They are the least likeliest ethnic group to become registered organ donors, he said.
“I don’t feel like that should be the case,” Lopez said. “Hispanics, by their nature, are very altruistic. I feel like the one reason we’re last in donation is lack of awareness. So my goal is to make organ donation more of a common dialogue within the community.”
Currently, there are 124,000 people on the waiting list for organ donations in the United States. Because there are not enough organs available, anywhere from 18 to 21 people die each day waiting for a transplant.
“When you hear those statistics, it really lights a fire under you to spread as much awareness as you can, because, quite literally, our job is to help save lives,” he said.
Lopez has given presentations ranging from two people to groups with as many as 300.
“To me, it doesn’t matter if it’s just one person,” he said. “Even if I could just get one person registered today, that’s one person who could potentially save up to eight lives if they’re an organ donor. And if they’re a tissue donor, they can enhance the lives of up to 50 people.”
Originally, Lopez pictured himself working in the public sector in a government role. However, working with the Arkansas Regional Organ Recovery Agency has opened his eyes to a different career path.
“Now that I’m there, it’s really hard to see myself being anywhere else,” he said.