marquette mining journal 1 ogd 20100427
MARQUETTE -Carol Leece and Gail Brandly each often have a difficult task to perform.
But it is a task that truly can be a lifesaver.
The two are among the trained designated requestors at Marquette General Hospital. They are medical personnel who speak with families whose loved ones are not going to survive their health crisis, talking to them about the topic of organ donation.
"It's sad, of course," said Leece, who has been a registered nurse for 42 years and a designated requestor for at least 20 of those years. "It's hard on the family because you're announcing the outcome is not going to be positive. We have to allow time for that to sink in and there often are a lot of people to get on board with what's going on."
Brandly, a hospital supervisor at MGH and the liaison for organ, tissue and eye donors, works with both the University of Wisconsin Organ Procurement Organization and the Michigan Tissue Bank in her part of the process. She's been at the hospital for 28 years, including 15 in her current post in the afternoon shift.
"What I do in my position ... is make sure the patient is taken care of with all resources available," Brandly said. "And I support the family. I am there as a liaison to keep them informed. A lot of patients are from outlying areas and I might be the only support at first, until someone can get there. I call in the chaplain if they need those services.
"Since I am already in the role of support, it's a natural tie-in. They become comfortable with us (hospital supervisors). There's a rapport," Brandly said. "They trust us."
As designated requestors, Leece and Brandly and others who are certified to be in that position develop skills to help them talk to family members.
"It requires a four-hour course and we have yearly recertification," Leece explained. At least half the staff in the intensive care units where she works has taken the course and become certified.
The training helps a great deal as does the experience itself with learning how to talk to families in this difficult situation.
"We can judge more easily when is a better time to approach," Brandly said.
"Knowing up front how to approach them lets us be ready when the time is right," Leece said.
But what would help designated requestors everywhere is if families were prepared beforehand in case a tragedy were to occur.
"When you talk to people not in crisis, about 90 percent say they approve of organ donation," Brandly said. "But when you talk to families at these difficult times, about 50 percent say no because they don't know what their loved one wanted.
"We check the donor registry to see what the person wanted. When we're responding to an emergency, we rarely see the driver's license, because that often stays with the police," she said. "But if the person has done the registry, their wishes will show up on that.
"For a family not to have to make that decision under stress is huge. If they don't know, it's a stressor for them."
In Michigan, it's simple to register to become an organ donor: Visit giftoflifemichigan.org to find out more.
Through the month of April, which is National Donate Life Month, an effort is made to bring this information to the public's attention.
"During this month for at least five years now, we have been setting up a table in the crosswalk with information on organ donation," Leece said. "And we have a donor quilt up for them to view, to see faces of those who have been involved in transplants."
While the task of talking to families going through an unthinkable tragedy is difficult, it can also be rewarding.
"It's hard on a nurse when they lose a patient," Leece said. "But when they work with the OPO, they take pride in being involved, in knowing they can help save other lives."
Brandly said she will always remember the people she's counseled, but one woman in particular has stayed in her memory.
"This woman was losing her 22-year-old son and she did donate his organs and tissue," Brandly said. "She told me 'I'd rather have my son here but I might as well let someone else have their son.' I told her she was preventing seven or eight other families from going through what she was going through.
"She was really keeping thousands of other people, all the people who know and love the organ recipients, from going through that loss. She wasn't just helping one person by donating her son's organs and tissues, she was reaching out to so many."