Organ and Tissue Donor Referrals
Gift of Life works closely with hospital professionals to provide care and compassion to the donors and their families, while getting the gifts to those who need them most.
The work done saving lives through donation involves an array of others at Gift of Life – to manage every facet of the donation process and allocate the gifts to where they are needed most, while simultaneously working with the hospitals and staff to ensure an in-depth understanding of the donation process and foster their work as champions of the cause.
And above all, we work to ensure the emotional comfort of families of potential donors after a sudden death.
Referrals from Hospitals
Gift of Life’s call center handles the first part of the process, as every hospital death is required to be referred to their local organ procurement organization (OPO) for consideration for potential organ and/or tissue donation. State legislation known as PA Act 102 of 1994 served as the template for the federal initiative, making this referral process a nationwide requirement.
Since 1974, Gift of Life Donor Program has help save the lives of tens of thousands of area residents through organ and tissue donation and transplantation.
As a result, Gift of Life’s call center will receive more than 40,000 referrals annually, but only 1-2 percent of these patient deaths have all the right components to become actual organ donors.
Many more will have the opportunity to be tissue donors, another important type of donation that enhances the lives of those in need of cornea transplants, bone and skin grafts or heart valves and veins.
Working with the Family On-site
In instances of a potential organ donation, the transplant coordinator travels to the referring hospital and evaluates the case on-site. When he or she meets the family, the conversation begins with condolences and empathetic support. As the conversation unfolds, the transplant coordinator shares donation opportunities with the family. In cases where the potential donor has indicated his or her decision to donate on his or her driver's license or other gift document, the coordinator counsels the family on how the process for organ and/or tissue recovery will proceed.
If the individual had not indicated a prior decision to donate, the transplant coordinator speaks to the family and helps them understand the amazing life-saving opportunity that organ and tissue donation provides. Once the family consents to donate, the coordinator begins the rigorous work of making the donation happen.
Donor Management and Recovery
The coordinator balances blood tests and monitoring the donor with efforts to allocate the organs and tissues to where they are needed the most, based on the donor’s blood type, height and weight. The allocation process involves calls and conversations with area transplant surgeons, reporting the test results and quality of the organs to determine which patient is a match. Because the waiting list is so long, in general those with the most urgent medical need are at the top of the waiting list.
From there, it becomes a race against time to coordinate the recovery, including the arrival of the transplant teams – all performed by the transplant coordinator deep into a 24-36 hour shift.
Each donation is a miracle – a second chance for someone very close to death. Gift of Life works closely with hospital professionals to provide care and compassion to the donors and their families, while getting the gifts to those who need them most.
National Donor Sabbath, observed annually in November, seeks to educate faith-based communities about the need for organ, eye and tissue donors. Order free materials to celebrate National Donor Sabbath, taking place Nov. 13-15!