Carol Barbee, "Three Rivers" Producer has elicited the help of experts in the field to insure that the organ donation and transplantation depiction is accurately portrayed; this is due to her and cast members strong conviction to eliminate deaths on the national organ donation transplant wait-list which currently exceeds 104,000 Americans.

Over the next few days Donate Life Organ & Tissue Donation blog will feather these experts.

Episode: Ryan's First Day
By: LuCyndi M Ramirez, RN BS MA CPTC
Manager, Organ Procurement
OneLegacy, the Organ Procurement Organization greater Los Angeles

In the "Three Rivers" episode Ryan's First Day, an Organ Procurement Organization helped Daniel's mother face the tragic loss of her son by helping her better understand what was happening and by giving her an opportunity through donation to help others.

Daniel's mother didn't understand how her son could be dead when it looked like he was just sleeping. Many families have this concern and confusion and Organ Procurement Organizations work with families to help them understand brain death.

What is brain death?
When someone is brain dead, it means that there is no blood or oxygen flow to his or her brain or brain stem. Thus, the brain is no longer functioning in any capacity and never will again.

If my loved one is brain dead, why does the heart continue to beat?
The heart has its own pacemaker independent of the brain. If it has oxygen and glucose, it continues to beat.

Would removing the respiratory support equipment be the same as causing the death of my family member or "taking them off life support"?
No. Once the patient is brain dead, he or she is legally dead. The brain will never recover. The respiratory support equipment keeps oxygen flowing to the organs which will keep the heart beating. When the ventilator is discontinued, the heart will stop beating after several minutes without oxygen.

Are there any documented cases where a patient was declared brain dead and later restored to a normal life?
No. If you have heard about a person who was supposedly brain dead and recovered, they were actually in a deep coma or vegetative state with slight brain activity-not brain dead. The Organ Procurement Organization ensures the brain death tests are done correctly as a check and balance to the system.

Daniel's name was put on a wall of donors at Three Rivers to honor his gift. Are there ways that organizations really honor donors?
In the episode, as in reality, organ donation is a step which can start families on the road to grieving and recovery. There are many ways we honor and celebrate the life and legacy of organ and tissue donors, from local donor remembrance ceremonies and run/walks to the National Donor Memorial where families can create a tribute:

This season you can dedicate a rose in the
Family Circle Garden which rides on the Donate Life Rose Parade Float on New Year's Day. You can create a special dedication for a donor, recipient, someone who is waiting for a transplant or someone who has died waiting.
Please register to be an organ donor. To learn how please click HERE
In California, please visit Donate Life California to become an organ donor and please share your desire to help others with your family.


Mike said…
By now you might have heard of Sanjay Gupta's new book "Cheating Death". In the book, on his TV show, and in interviews promoting the book, Gupta is unmistakably confusing coma, persistant vegetative state, and brain death. He's telling the public that people recover from brain death, and clearly linking his stories of recovery from vegetative state with brain death and organ procurement for transplantation. Gupta seems determined to convince the public that brain death is just vegetative state, and that medical professionals are just reluctant to help the "brain dead". See pages 140, and 142 of the book. For what he's saying in promoting the book see, for instance, Fresh Air (, and any of the ads for the book which excitedly tell us: "Extended cardiac arrest, "brain death," not breathing for over an hour-all these conditions used to be considered inevitably fatal, but they no longer are.".
Why is he doing this? I can only guess. Its a far more dramatic story, and something sure to make him more money, to claim that more isn't done to save the brain dead because surgeons want organs for transplant. Organ transplantation has always sparked a primal irrational fear, generating more urban legends and ghoulish stories than any other medical procedure. Next of kin often refuse to allow organ donation because of the feeling that something ghoulish is being done with their loved one, and the suspicion that they are being allowed to die for someone else's benefit. Any number of news organizations, even respected ones, have, at one time or another, repeated the most bizarre urban legends of organ snatching as verified events. CNN has recently aired several reports claiming a vast US organ black market exists based on friend of a friend reports and one arrest of someone attempting to broker a kidney sale. Don't expect any followup reports or arrests.
Gupta refuses to address the criticisms.