How one of the world’s longest-living heart transplant recipients would fix our organ donation system

The Globe and Mail | Andrea Woo

Hundreds of Canadians die every year awaiting organ donation, and many more suffer before they reach the top of the list. Simon Keith wants to change that – and he knows what it will take to turn Canada’s fragmented organ donation system around

At the University of Nevada Las Vegas (UNLV) in 1988. Dr. Lawrence Golding doing the testing. They were studying the effects of cardiac transplantation in college athletes.

It is late afternoon on a sweltering day, and a group of doctors at the University Medical Center of Southern Nevada has gathered around the body of a teenage boy. His accidental death days earlier cut short a life of potential – but his parents’ decision to donate his organs is giving a second chance at life to others.

In operating room 17, three teams of surgeons get to work. For more than two hours, eight white-gloved hands at a time carefully cut, position and irrigate as others look on. On a table behind them, silver bowls of sterile ice await. A cardiac monitor beeps.

After examining the organs and arteries for abnormalities, the doctors are finally ready to remove the heart. They administer a solution for organ preservation and an anti-coagulant to prevent blood clots. To one side, a team member calls the receiving hospital. "We’ve just heparinized and we’ll cross-clamp within five minutes," she says.

At 7:29 p.m., doctors place a clamp across the aorta and sterile ice into the body cavity. No longer beating, the heart is quickly removed, cleaned up and packed for transport. There is a sense of urgency; the heart must be transplanted within four hours of removal. Continue reading