Source: Lyon County Reporter
Television shows like House and Grey’s Anatomy act as if they know all about the medical world. Many times in shows like these, they are impatient and go ahead with giving the patient medications or doing surgery. In the real world, doctors must be patient and do things the legal way.
In reality, the first heart would still have been good to use. Organs can be harvested and placed into the recipient hours after the donor has passed away. In fact, the organs are not taken from the donor until the donor has been declared deceased. Even if the donor has been declared brain dead, surgeons must wait for the donor to take his or her last breath; something that is misleading in shows like Grey’s Anatomy.
The donation process can be tedious and difficult for the donor’s family, but one donor can save up to eight lives.
Most organ donors have been pronounced brain dead. When someone is brain dead, they are dead. When the brain is injured, like other parts of the body, it swells. There is nowhere for the brain to expand because of the skull, and the brain then dies. No one has come back from being brain dead (not to be confused with a coma). There is no “pulling the plug” for these patients.
How does the Organ Referral Process work?(http://www.dcids.org/dci_process.html)
1. A person is admitted to a hospital due to an accident or illness. Life-saving medical care is performed.
2. In a matter of hours or days, the medical staff may determine that the patient will not survive. The patient may become brain dead and may be declared brain dead by the physician.
3. The hospital calls the Donor Services office to determine if the patient could be a potential organ and/or tissue donor. A medical evaluation is conducted to determine suitability for donation.
4. If there is not medical potential for organ and/or tissue donation, the family is not asked about donation.
5. If there is potential for donation, DCI Donor Services will determine whether the patient has put his/her wishes to become an organ and/or tissue donor into writing by checking for a donor card, living will, or drivers license. If no such legal documents exist, the family is asked by Donor Services’ staff.
6. If the individual had signed up to be a donor, or the family agrees to donation, the Donor Services staff obtains medical/social history from the legally designated family member. Consent is obtained from the family only if the individual had not indicated his wishes about donation.
7. The Donor Services organ recovery coordinator medically manages the patient, which includes watching vital signs, giving fluids and making sure the organs are kept functioning. The coordinator generates a list of patients registered with the United Network for Organ Sharing (UNOS). The list of transplant candidates is ranked by a computer program according to UNOS policies on organ allocation. Several factors are taken into consideration in identifying the best matched recipients. Some of these factors include blood type, medical urgency, length of time on the waiting list, and geographic distance between the donor and the potential recipient (for heart and lung transplants).
8. Organs are recovered by surgeons in the operating room of the donor’s hospital. Organs are then taken to the respective transplant centers for transplantation.
9. Once donation is complete, the body is transferred to the funeral home. Generally, donation does not delay funeral arrangements or affect the viewing of the body.
Donor families wishing to do so may receive follow-up information about the organs and tissues recovered. The family is also offered bereavement support.
With 111,777 people on the waiting list for a transplant, it’s a wonder how they “pick” someone to receive an organ when one becomes available. There are many circumstances that have to fit just right. The timing a person is put on the list is very specific. The recipient needs to be an active candidate. This means he or she currently meets the eligibility requirements and is medically suitable for the transplant. They also look at how ill the patient is and how long one can live compared to another without the transplant. The donor and recipient must have the same blood type in order to be a match. Location is put into the equation, as well. The recipient must be close enough geographically to the donor in order to receive the organ in time. Location is most relevant to heart and lungs, as they only have four to six hours to be out of the body before they are no good.
Organ donations are in high demand. A new name is added to the waiting list every 11 minutes in the United States. From January to May in 2011, 11,485 transplants were done from 5,669 donors. To become a donor in Iowa, you can register online at www.iowadonornetwork.org. You can also check it off on your driver’s license, and let your loved ones know you have made this decision. If you know someone who has donated organs or received a transplant, please share the story at facebook.com/lyoncountyreporter.com
We make a living by what we get, but we make a life by what we give. -Winston Churchill
This article is dedicated to Michaela Busenbark, who donated her organs at the age of 19.