Spreading the word helps find matching donors for organ transplants, experts say


Dr. David Mulligan, at right, performs a kidney transplant at Yale New Haven Hospital.COURTESY OF YALE NEW HAVEN HOSPITAL
NEW HAVEN.  If you have kidney or liver disease, you may be shy about letting people know you need a transplant.

Don’t be. For some potential donors, it just might take a nudge to make the decision and save a life.

And even if would-be donors are not a match, they can still help their family member or friend, through an organ-exchange program.

“Most of the time, people find a loved one, a friend, some kind of friend of a friend that they may have known, and when they show interest to be an organ donor, a significant number of times they can be a donor,” said Dr. David Mulligan, director of Yale New Haven Hospital’s Transplantation Center.

The key is getting the word out, which many people in need of a kidney or liver are reluctant to do, Mulligan said. For someone with kidney disease, that can mean five years on dialysis, moving slowly up the waiting list, until an organ from a deceased donor is available and is a match. For someone with end-stage liver disease, the time left may be short.

While “close to 80 percent of the patients on the [kidney] wait list today have a donor available for them,” the wait is much longer and more difficult for those with liver failure. “Only about 20 percent of the people on the waiting list for a liver transplant have a donor waiting for them,” Mulligan said. Continue reading