Nevada County No. 1 in the state |

Nevada County No. 1 in the state

Nevada County residents have long been known for donating time and money to causes, but now they are being recognized for literally giving of themselves to help others.

The state’s Donate Life California organ donor registry recently announced that Nevada County is tied with El Dorado County, with 33 percent of its state motor vehicle license or identification holders being volunteer donors.

The program works through the Department of Motor Vehicles, giving people the option of signing up when they apply for or renew licenses and identification cards.

The figure means that almost 28,000 of the 83,000 people in the county with state driver’s licenses or ID cards have signed DMV forms agreeing to donate their organs upon death. The high number was recently recognized at a ceremony at the Grass Valley office of the DMV, in Glenbrook Basin.

“Our staff is firmly committed to this program,” said Grass Valley DMV Manager Kim Nunez. “It’s an honor for us to play a part in saving lives.”

Nevada County resident Katherine Doolittle works with Golden State Donor Services, which helps administer the program. She is not sure why the mountain counties have such high rates of donor volunteers.

The state county average is 26 percent.

“We think it might be there are more generations bound together in the rural areas,” Doolittle said.

“There are tighter family connections” that may prompt people to consider donating.

Doolittle’s ex-husband is alive because a deceased person donated a liver and kidney to him, she said.

“He was within hours of death” when the organs became available for transplant, Doolittle said. After he was saved, Doolittle was spurred to get into the organ donation field herself.

Misinformation about organ donation abounds, Doolittle said. Television and movie scripts often contain poor information and tend to perpetuate myths, she said.

For instance, it is absolutely false that an emergency medical responder would allow someone to die to get their organs for donation.

“People on the side of the road are no longer viable for donation, because their organs start to die immediately,” Doolittle said.

Almost all donors are brain dead, but remain on life support, keeping their organs alive until they can be taken for others.

For Pat Forsberg, the program turned tragedy into a priceless gift.

Forsberg’s son, Dustin Fox, died in a vehicle accident. When the call came asking if the family would donate his organs, having seen organ donations save many lives during 30 years as a nurse, she didn’t hesitate to say yes.

“My son saved five lives,” said Forsberg, nursing director for Sierra Nevada Memorial Hospital. “It has helped me to know something good came from this tragedy.”

You can sign up for the organ donor registry when you apply for or renew your driver’s license or identification card at any California DMV office. You can also sign up at

For more information about the donation program through DMV, visit

To contact Senior Staff Writer Dave Moller, e-mail or call (530) 477-4237.

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