Donation & Transplantation

Donation & Transplantation

Despite the COVID-19 pandemic, Donor Alliance continued saving lives through organ and tissue donation and transplantation, resulting in another record-breaking year for lives saved. In addition to facilitating local deceased donation, Donor Alliance also helped coordinate 140 transplants from donors outside of our region, as well as assisting in 39 of the region’s 118 transplants from living donors. 


A record-breaking year for organ donors and transplants

Colorado and Wyoming saw a 13% increase in organ donors and facilitated more organ transplants than ever by 4% in 2020, despite the challenges of the pandemic. Expanded age criteria for DCD donors and strong relationships with hospital and transplant center partners helped to drive the record-breaking results.

Saving and healing the lives of tens of thousands more recipients in need, 1,899 tissue donors also provided bone and skin grafts allowing others to regain mobility and lead active lives after disease or trauma. Strides made in tissue donation in 2020 included the use of a CT machine on pediatric donors to provide additional diagnostic information to coroners, the recovery of bone marrow for leukemia and associated cellular research studies and the onboarding of a new tissue processor to ensure Donor Alliance is able to meet its vision. 

191 donors
215 donors

Organ donors

A record 215 Colorado and Wyoming organ donors saved the lives of 622 recipients in 2020.

596 transplants
622 transplants

Organ transplants

A record 351 kidney, 141 liver and 68 heart transplants were facilitated in 2020. 


Lives saved

For the first time, more than 600 lives were saved through kidney, liver, heart, lung and pancreas transplants in a calendar year


Tissue donors

Tissue donation projections were exceeded thanks to tech innovations and new means of communication, including texting donor families


Top DDRs in the Nation

With a donor designation rate (DDR) of 68%, Colorado has the top DDR in the country. Wyoming is also among the most generous states at 62%

Meet Sammie

2020 organ and tissue donor

Hearing from the recipients has been amazing. I see how grateful they are for this gift. They know all too well about miracles. Each person has been so kind, thankful, and wishing nothing but the best for our family.

Christy, Sammie's mom

Sammie’s gift of life

Sammie was a loving, hilarious and stubborn 15 year old that loved helping others. She loved cheerleading, playing sports and being with her friends.

When Sammie tragically passed away in July 2020, her family knew donating her organs was what she would have wanted. Sammie’s gifts have brought her family peace during a time of unimaginable grief. They know that even though Sammie’s miracle wasn’t to be, instead Sammie became someone else’s miracle.

Some of the recipients of Sammie’s organs have reached out to her family and expressed their immense gratitude for Sammie’s gifts of life. Sammie helped others to live and gave hope to families who felt hopeless. Knowing a piece of her lives on gives Sammie’s family comfort.

July 2020

Sammie passed away after a tragic car accident

July 2020

Sammie’s liver and both of her kidneys were transplanted saving the lives of 3 people

October 2020

Sammie’s family received a letter from her right kidney recipient

December 2020

Sammie's family received another letter, this time from her liver recipient

Hearts and hot sauce

After his first heart attack at 25 years old and a second at 30, Tony was in and out of the hospital with congestive heart failure and varying degrees of kidney failure for the last decade. After being hospitalized once again in early 2020, Tony was told he wouldn’t be discharged until he received a new heart. After discussing heart transplantation with his doctor, Tony laid in his hospital bed every night thinking about the families of organ, eye and tissue donors. The families that would suffer the greatest tragedy, but would turn their pain into an opportunity to save lives.

In March 2020, Tony’s life was saved by one such family. He received the lifesaving gift of a heart and kidney transplant, and after recovering from the surgery has once again found joy in being able to do the simple things that are easily taken for granted. He is eternally grateful to his donor and their family.

September 1999

Tony suffered from his first heart attack

June 2004

Tony had a second heart attack and was diagnosed with heart and kidney failure

April & November 2019

Tony got his internal Cardiac Defibrillator

December 2019

Tony began his transplant evaluation

February 2020

Tony was hospitalized and added to heart and kidney transplant list

March 2020

Tony got the call that he would receive a new heart and kidney

August 2020

Tony finally returned to his favorite hobby, drumming

The staff knew my love of hot sauce, and several of them brought me bottles of hot sauce, unique stuff, and not things you find on the shelf at the big grocery store.

Tony's Story

2020 heart and kidney recipient

Meet Mary

2020 tissue recipient and wife of an organ and tissue donor

A husband's love

Mary knows better than most the healing power of tissue donation. Thanks to two tissue donors, she was able to have knee replacement surgeries in 2017 and 2019, and resume an active life. However, in November 2020, Mary needed a third knee surgery and received the gift of healing tissue from the most remarkable donor: her late husband, Eric.

In May 2020, Eric passed away unexpectedly and became a donor. Mary knew firsthand how much healing and hope donation and transplantation can bring. She also knew donating Eric’s organs and tissue was what he would have wanted.

Months after Eric’s passing, Mary was out on a hike with her dog when she stumbled and blew out her knee yet again. Mary knew that if she had to have another ACL replacement, she wanted to use Eric’s tissue. Thanks to considerable coordination between her transplant team and the tissue bank, six months to the day that Eric passed away, Mary underwent surgery and received a transplant of Eric’s patella tendon. She would give anything to have Eric here with her instead, but in his absence, Mary is heartened to know that she has a piece of him with her forever. 

May 2020

Mary’s husband, Eric, died unexpectedly and became a donor

September 2020

Mary blew out her knee hiking

November 2020

Mary received Eric’s patella tendon during ACL replacement surgery

December 2020

Eric’s gifts have saved and healed 58 lives and counting

New liver, new life

A diagnosis of cirrhosis of the liver was the start of Mark’s transplant journey in 2013. As Mark’s disease progressed, he became more and more ill, eventually having his diagnosis refined to cryptogenic liver disease and losing his ability to work and live independently. Mark’s wife became his caregiver, spokesperson and ultimately even his memory due to a decline in his brain function as a side effect of his liver disease.

Mark was placed on the transplant list in March 2020. Just two months later, he got the call that he would receive a liver from a deceased donor. As he heads back to work and enjoys his family and new rescue dog, not a day goes by that Mark doesn’t think about his donor. He is profoundly grateful for a second chance at life.

Spring 2013

Mark was diagnosed with cirrhosis of the liver

Spring 2016

Mark’s diagnosis refined to cryptogenic liver disease

November 2019

Mark began transplant evaluation

March 2020

Mark placed on liver transplant list

May 2020

Mark received liver transplant

November 2020

Mark is now walking 6+ times a day with his rescue dog

Meet Mark

2020 liver recipient

Meet Charlotte

2020 tissue donor

Charlotte’s gift

Charlotte made hearts melt with her smile and brought joy to everyone around her with her contagious laugh. She loved being read to and taking walks while holding hands.

Charlotte also lived with Dravet Syndrome, a severe form of epilepsy. Charlotte and her family found that CBD provided profound relief from her epileptic episodes. During her brief 13 years of life, Charlotte helped to save the lives of many others who suffered by inspiring a CBD movement that made the nation take a new look at using CBD to combat epilepsy.

When Charlotte passed away in April 2020, she continued saving lives by becoming a tissue donor. Since her donation, Charlotte’s family learned that Charlotte’s pulmonary heart valve went to another child. Knowing that Charlotte’s gift helped to save another young life, and knowing that a small part of her lives on, has brought happiness to Charlotte’s family.

April 2020

Charlotte passed away following a lifelong battle with epilepsy

April 2020

Governor Jared Polis issued an executive order proclaiming April 7 Charlotte Figi Day in Colorado

July 2020

Charlotte’s pulmonary heart valve was gifted to a young child in New Mexico


Sharing our mission of saving lives

We can’t do this lifesaving work alone. The work our partners and stakeholders do throughout the donation and transplantation process is vital. These important partners include driver license offices, hospitals, transplant centers, coroners and funeral homes, all of whom help to ensure smooth referrals, recoveries and transplants.

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