Organ Donation Gives Gift of Life to Four Individuals
Recently, the Mercy family came together to support an organ donation that gave the gift of life to four deserving individuals.
Amid a pandemic, our Mercy family came together to care for and support an organ donor and their family. Marking the first time in a decade Mercy Hospital has partnered with Donor Alliance to recover organs from a donor after cardiac death (DCD) onsite. This donor’s selfless act has given four deserving individuals a renewed chance at life.
Mercy more frequently partners with Donor Alliance on organ donations from donors who have been declared brain dead, in which case the donor is flown to an organ recovery center in Denver where a specially trained staff recovers the organs.
"This donor’s selfless act has given four deserving individuals a renewed chance at life."
However, this was the first time in 10 years that Mercy has taken part in the organ recovery of a DCD donor. DCD is the term for a donor who has suffered irreversible brain injury and may be near death but does not meet formal brain death criteria. After the patient’s family has made the difficult decision to withdraw care and the patient’s heart stops beating, the organs are recovered onsite in the operating room.
The care of organ donors can be arduous, requiring extra staff and critical partnerships with multiple hospital departments.
“It takes a team to care for these patients,” explained Angela Peterson, manager of clinical nursing.
Two nurses are needed to care for the patient. One completes administrative tasks, such as placing orders, while the other cares for the patient and provides support to the family. Mercy’s chaplains and social workers also play a vital role by providing support to the donor’s family as they navigate the donor process. Working alongside Donor Alliance our chaplains helped to prepare the family for the process of donation. The OR staff ensured the family was able to spend final moments with their loved one before the organ recovery.
"Mercy’s chaplains and social workers also play a vital role by providing support to the donor’s family as they navigate the donor process."
The care of an organ donor goes beyond the walls of the ICU requiring support from multiple hospital departments. For example, days before this organ donation, Mercy’s OR staff was making homemade slurry to preserve the organs during transport.
“It takes literally the whole house to support an organ donation including laboratory, cath lab, diagnostic imaging, pharmacy, the blood bank, respiratory therapy, operating room staff, physicians and more,” Angela stated. “It was all hands-on-deck to support this donation on top of caring for patients in the middle of a pandemic.”
In addition to the Mercy staff involved, Donor Alliance flew in two teams from Tennessee to facilitate the organ recovery. The teams were able to recover the heart, kidneys and liver.
“This was only the second heart recovery Donor Alliance has completed in Colorado,” Angela said.
Once the organs have been recovered, timing becomes essential for the success of the transplant. This is where the support of our community partners is crucial.
"...support of our community partners is crucial."
“I want to give a huge call out to Durango Fire & Rescue,” Angela said. “They pulled their teams in and we were able to use their ambulances to transport the organs quickly to the airport.”
Angela remains in touch with Donor Alliance who shared that every one of the organ transplants have been successful.
“It’s such a strange dichotomy,” Angela explained. “These patients are here for a long time and we develop close relationships with their family. The process is traumatic and sad, but it positively touches so many people. It’s really an amazing thing to be part of.”
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