Liver Transplant Recipient Becomes an Organ Donor Advocate

Lella Young, a 16-year-old girl from Delta, Colorado, has a special reason to be an organ donor advocate. She received a lifesaving liver transplant when she was just seven months old, and now she wants to help others who are waiting for a second chance at life.

A Rare Condition and a Generous Gift

Lella was born with a rare condition called biliary atresia, which affects the liver and bile ducts. She was placed on the transplant waiting list at only two months old, and her condition worsened as she grew. She needed a new liver urgently, or she would not survive.

Fortunately, a 17-year-old girl from Iowa, who had died in a car crash, had registered as an organ donor when she got her driver license. Her family agreed to donate her organs, and one of them was a perfect match for Lella. Lella received her new liver in a complex surgery at Children’s Hospital Colorado, and her life was transformed.

“We are so thankful for our donor family’s gift to Lella,” said Lyndall Young, Lella’s mother. “Our goal as a family is to help someone else, if possible. To see Lella make that choice to register as an organ, eye, and tissue donor filled our hearts with overwhelming pride and hope.”

A Full-Circle Moment at the DMV

Lella has grown up to be a healthy and happy teenager, who enjoys dancing, swimming, and spending time with her friends and family. She is also passionate about raising awareness and support for organ donation, and she has been featured on the Donate Life Colorado posters and brochures at the Colorado Division of Motor Vehicle (DMV) offices across the Western Slope.

Organ Donor Advocate

Last week, Lella had a full-circle moment when she went to the Delta driver license office to get her instruction permit. She was asked the same question that saved her life — would you like to be an organ, eye, and tissue donor? She did not hesitate to say yes, and she proudly displayed the heart symbol on her permit.

“I always said I wanted to be a donor and I know the importance,” Lella said. “I wouldn’t be here without it — it’s truly a gift of life.”

A High Rate of Donor Registration in Colorado

Colorado has the nation’s highest Donor Designation Rate (DDR), which measures the percentage of people who register as organ, eye, and tissue donors when they obtain or renew their driver license or state ID. In 2023, 66% of Coloradans said yes to being an organ donor, which is 1,028,474 people. The national average for DDR is 50%.

The Colorado DMV helped make a record number of life-saving organ transplants possible across the U.S. in 2023 through donor registration, according to Donate Life America. In Colorado, 278 organ donors provided 829 life-saving transplants in 2023. Additionally, 1,911 tissue donors saved and healed lives through their gifts of life.

Despite the progress that has been made, there are still around 1,500 people in Colorado on the transplant waiting list. Saying yes when obtaining or renewing a driver license or state ID supports the mission to save the lives of our neighbors through organ, eye, and tissue donation.

Lella is one of the many faces and stories that inspire people to register as donors. She hopes that by sharing her experience, she can encourage others to make the same decision that gave her a second chance at life.

“People can register to be an organ, eye, and tissue donor the next time they obtain or renew their driver license/state ID or anytime at,” Lella said.

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