FEB. 4, 2005 | One organ donor’s generosity can save as many as four or five lives, but the medical team carrying out their wishes must be ready to act with confidence and compassion.
“It is so important that every one know their roles and that we be sensitive to the feelings of the family,” said Suzanne Mallory, B.S.N., R.N., the family services coordinator for organ donation at the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences (UAMS). She recently shared the story of UAMS’ growth as an organ donation and transplant center during the January meeting of the National Organ Donation Breakthrough Collaborative in
Mallory works to identify potential organ donors and support donor families through the process, answering questions and making sure they understand the wishes of their loved one and each step involved. She also works to raise awareness of organ donation with nurses and physicians so they remember it as an option.
Currently, more than 87,000 patients are waiting for lifesaving organ transplants in the
Mallory noted that UAMS has come a long way in raising awareness of the organ donation option. In 2000, there were just two organ donors at UAMS, compared with 22 in 2004. The medical center recently passed a milestone by performing its first donation after cardiac death (DCD) organ recovery, a procedure that was commonplace in the early years of organ donation, but had fallen by the wayside.
Mallory’s presentation at the meeting, “Implementing Donation After Cardiac Death (DCD) at UAMS and a Case Study,” refers to donations from patients who have sustained a traumatic and unrecoverable brain injury but cannot be declared dead based on the definition of brain death. These patients are declared dead only after cardiac and respiratory function stops when they are withdrawn from life support. All organs were recovered for transplant this way before the introduction of brain death laws, and it was a common practice prior to the 1980s. The first successful heart transplant in 1967 was from a DCD organ recovery.
“It is important to understand that donation after cardiac death is only considered after the family has decided to withdraw life support from the patient,” Mallory emphasized. Once a trained requester has obtained consent, the patient is taken to the operating room, removed from life support and allowed to pass away peacefully. The organs are then surgically removed and quickly sent to locations where they can be transplanted into matched recipients.
“The option of donation after cardiac death can bring comfort during a time of grief and allow a family to begin the healing process. Many families find comfort in the fact that their loved one’s organs saved the life of another person,” Mallory said.
UAMS’ first DCD was performed in December 2004. Mallory said it went smoothly because the physicians and nurses were clear on their roles and coordinated with all the entities involved in organ recovery as soon as it was evident that the patient would not recover. She said the family involved was supportive of the patient’s choice, as indicated on his driver’s license, to become an organ donor.
“Although you can never say that a death is a good experience, this was the ideal situation for us to perform our first DCD and I appreciate the efforts of so many who made it a success,” she said. Although the heart was not usable, the patient’s liver and kidneys were healthy and were transplanted into waiting recipients.
UAMS is part of the Arkansas HOPE (Helping Organ Procurement Expand) team, along with Baptist Health, Arkansas Children’s Hospital and the Arkansas Regional Organ Recovery Agency (ARORA).
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Arkansas Regional Organ Recovery Agency (ARORA) http://www.arora.org/
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