By Steve Huffman / Times-News
Published: Thursday, March 7, 2013 at 16:58 PM.
Upon returning to Alamance County on Wednesday night, Mary Jo Collins and her husband, Bruce, did what any self-respecting couple would do to celebrate.
They went out with friends and had themselves a steak dinner.
“It was a very emotional day,” Mary Jo said. “It was a very rewarding day.”
Members of the N.C. Senate on Wednesday passed Senate Bill 11, an act to designate every April as organ donation awareness/donate life month. The bill is known as “Duffy’s Law” in tribute to the Collinses’ son, Duffy, who died in 2005.
Duffy suffered from an auto-immune disease that destroyed his kidneys. He died at the age of 28 for the lack of a kidney transplant.
Mary Jo Collins said all that awaits for the bill to be enacted as law is its passage in the N.C. House and signing by Gov. Pat McCrory. She said these two steps are formalities.
“All the red tape is done,” Collins said.
She said it’s hoped the bill will be enacted by April 1 because April is Organ Donation Awareness/Donate Life Month in North Carolina. Regardless of the exact date at which the bill is enacted, Collins said she’s happy it has moved as far as it has.
“I’ve worked seven long years to get this done,” she said.
Collins credited N.C. Sen. Rick Gunn (R-Alamance) for his sponsorship of the bill. The bill states that 116,000 people are waiting for organ transplants nationally, and 3,500 of those are residents of North Carolina. It states that 18 people die each day while waiting for transplants and one organ donor might save as many as eight lives and improve the lives of 50 people.
Sharon Hirsch, executive director of Donate Life North Carolina, said Collins was the driving force behind the bill’s passage.
“It wouldn’t have happened without her,” Hirsch said. “She and her husband, they’re the reason this law passed. Their courage after a terrible tragedy resulted in such a positive end,” she said.
Hirsch agreed with the Collinses that she’d like to see the law enacted to coincide with National Organ Donation Month, though she also noted, “We can’t predict the legislature.”
While North Carolina has the nation’s sixth-largest donor registry with 4.3 million participants, Hirsch said fewer than 50 percent of the state’s drivers have designated themselves as organ donors on their licenses.
“Our goal is to have everyone become a donor,” she said.
The majority of those who register as organ donors do so while getting their driver’s licenses or state identification cards.
Donate Life North Carolina is a collaborative group of organizations that promote organ, eye and tissue donation.