WVU Medicine Camden Clark celebrates organ donation
PARKERSBURG — April is National Donate Life Month, but staff at WVU Medicine Camden Clark didn’t wait until a particular time to celebrate a life-saving gift.
When a patient at the hospital passed away in late January, personnel from a variety of departments gathered to honor the individual as his body was taken to the operating room so his organs could be harvested for donation.
“The halls were lined from the patient’s room through the hallways and corridors clear to the O.R.,” said Holly Mahaney, ICU charge nurse. “The family was present … and they walked with the patient.
“It’s important because it’s a tough decision to make, and it’s saving multiple lives,” she said. “So in their time of grief, they’re making the generous decision to save others.”
Three organs were harvested from the donor for transplant to people who needed them, Mahaney said.
The family members “were very emotional, and they were honored that everyone came out to show their respects to their loved one,” she said. “It’s a very emotional experience for the staff as well.”
Among those staff members was Amanda Swallie, advanced care unit clinical nurse manager. Just a few months earlier, her mother-in-law received a lifesaving heart transplant at Cleveland Clinic.
“She is doing fantastic,” Swallie said.
Because of COVID-19 restrictions, her family has not been able to meet the family of her mother-in-law’s heart donor. That added an extra dimension to seeing and paying respect to another donor and his family.
It was the first time the hospital has gathered like that for an organ donor, but it won’t be the last, said Susan Abdella, director of emergency services and the hospital’s liaison to Lifeline of Ohio.
Lifeline promotes and coordinates the donation of organs and tissues in 38 Ohio counties, along with Wood and Hancock counties in West Virginia. Lifeline coordinated gifts from 165 donors in 2020, resulting in 517 organs transplanted and 446 lives saved, according to its website, lifelineofohio.org.
They also recovered tissue from 584 donors and corneas from 234.
Abdella noted that blood tests and other steps must be taken to ensure donors and recipients are compatible and minimize the chance of rejection. There’s a limit on the amount of time between harvesting and transplanting, depending on the organ.
In 2020, there were 409 potential donors who passed away at Camden Clark. After screening by Lifeline, 76 were determined to be eligible. Ultimately, three individuals donated a total of nine organs, in addition to the hospital having 14 tissue donors, Abdella said.
According to the federal Health Resources and Service Administration, there were 39,000 organ transplants performed in 2020. But more than 107,000 people are on the national transplant waiting list and 17 people die each day waiting for an organ.
Abdella and Swallie said it’s important for people to consider organ donation and discuss it with their families in advance.
“Talk to somebody. Reach out to somebody. Get all your questions answered,” Swallie said. “It truly is a miracle.”
One organ donor can potentially save eight lives, while a tissue donor can benefit 75.
Evan Bevins can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
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