CH organ recipient seeks to encourage donors
In 2018, Jacques Smith, a lifelong resident of Cleveland Heights, made it off the organ transplant list after a two-year wait for a liver transplant. Now, he’s helping to bring attention to the importance of organ donation.
Smith, a deacon and current program manager of the Black American Council at Cuyahoga Community College, was diagnosed with primary biliary cirrhosis (PBC) in 2016. A rare autoimmune disease, PBC progressively destroys the liver’s bile ducts, impeding the organ’s ability to function.
After several failed surgeries, it was determined that Smith needed a liver transplant, and he was added to the waitlist. Two years later, with the help of Lifebanc, a nonprofit organ and tissue recovery organization serving Northeast Ohio, Smith received a life-saving liver donation.
Today, as Lifebanc’s newest board member, Smith works to educate others—especially people of color—on the need for organ donations, and on overcoming the incorrect and negative perceptions some have.
In Ohio alone, there are nearly 3,000 individuals awaiting transplants, 30 percent of whom are African American. While transplant matches can be made regardless of race, they have higher rates of success when the donor and recipient share similar ethnic backgrounds. In 2021 only 17 percent of donors were African Americans, indicative of the disconnect between need and availability.
Smith participated in a recent Lifebanc campaign, which followed people like him, whose lives were saved thanks to organ donors. In one spot, Smith read what would have been his obituary. To view the spot, go to www.youtube.com/watch?v=3_LSYPn7SIM.
Another lifelong Cleveland Heights resident, Jimmy Sollisch, helped develop the campaign. Sollisch, creative director at Marcus Thomas, is himself a living donor.
To learn more, or become a donor, visit: www.lifebanc.org.
Elaine Materise is a senior director of engagement at Hello LLC, a PR agency. Lifebanc is a client.