Ashley Drew needs two new lungs, which is no small order in the world of organ transplants.

“Lungs are among the hardest organs, they say, to get,” said Drew, a 23-year-old graduate student from Scarborough.

Now, Drew hopes a new state effort to promote organ donation will help her, as well as others who are on waiting lists for hearts, kidneys and other organs.

Mainers can now register as potential organ donors on a state website introduced this week by Secretary of State Matthew Dunlap:

“Before this, if you made the decision to be an organ donor, you’d have to go to a (Division of) Motor Vehicles office and you’d have to have the change made physically on your driver’s license,” Dunlap said.

The site allows a donor to register whether they have a driver’s license or not, and to check to see if they are already on the donor registry. It also provides information about organ donation, including the fact that Drew is one of more than 100,000 people nationwide and more than 4,000 in New England who are waiting for potentially life-saving transplants.

It is still important for willing donors to tell family members about their wishes, and registering won’t mean that every family’s decision will be easy. But, Dunlap said, “we can certainly make the bureaucratic piece of it a lot simpler, and that’s what we’ve done here.”

Anything to encourage organ donation pleases Patti Campbell of Portland.

“It’s going to make it so much easier for everybody to sign up,” Campbell said.

Campbell’s son, Andrew, registered as an organ donor in 2007, when he needed to get a new driver’s license.

“I can remember him coming home and showing it to me and saying, ‘Look Mom, I’m an organ donor.”‘

Later that year, at age 22, he died from a head injury. His kidneys, liver and heart were donated. His name was on the registry, which helped his parents make the decision to donate.

“On that day, he gave life to four more people,” Campbell said.

Andrew’s heart was transplanted into a man from Connecticut with a wife and two children. Patti Campbell and her other children met the man about a year later.

“We actually listened to Andrew’s heart beat inside Patrick. It was just an incredible thing to be able to do,” she said.

The man is a New York Yankees fan, so Campbell gave him a Boston Red Sox cap, because that was her son’s favorite team. “I told him he could very well have a change of heart now,” she said.

Campbell, who tries to promote organ donation whenever she can, said she has stayed in touch with some of the transplant recipients.

“You not only give life back to the person, you really give life back to their whole families,” she said.

Drew, the graduate student from Scarborough, said she was born with cystic fibrosis and her lungs are now failing. “I’m hoping to get on the waiting list (for lungs) this month,” she said. “Then, the average wait is 132 days.”

Meanwhile, the more people who sign up as donors, the more likely she will get her new lungs soon, she said,

“The match has to be so close,” she said. “It’s so hard to get good lungs.”

Staff Writer John Richardson can be contacted at 791-6324 or at:

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