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Prime Time Shows Organ Transplants

Posted Nov 15 2009 10:02pm
I've been watching the new TV series called Three Rivers since the show first aired. It is a medical drama that centers around a fictional organ transplant clinic in Pittsburgh, Penn. I think my excitement about the show is that I hope its focus will shine some light on the subject of medical transplants and increase donor awareness.
For a brief moment on Sunday nights, the cameras will allow people to glimpse characters who are in need of a heart transplant. Or maybe it will be a lung, or a liver. Maybe one night the story will raise opinions about the moral and ethical debates of giving an organ to a reformed drug addict. Maybe it's about 'who is getting an organ first' when there is a slip up in the system and one Transplant Center thinks it's theirs when it's already been offered to another. Or maybe it's just about a clock counting backwards and a life running out of time.
The stories for the most part remain true to nature. They capture the end result of the horrific accident that sends an ambulance screaming towards Three Rivers emergency room. There is the girl who keels over at her gymnastic meet because she's too sick to stand from a damaged liver and the innocent little boy who gets crushed at the fair. There are also the friends and families involved and you get a sense of how it must be to have your loved ones hanging on to dear life while dear life is being ripped away from them.
I suppose in a way it doesn't really matter how they got there. It's really about what comes next and how they're going to get out of it. Will they make it out?

Carol Barbee is the producer/writer for this new series and she spent time researching for Three Rivers at The Cleveland Clinic with Dr. Gonzalo Gonzalez-Stawinski. His professional career as a surgeon carries a list of credits that include cardiac surgery, heart transplants and coronary artery bypass graft surgery, to name a few. Dr. Robert Kormos, who is co-director of heart transplantation at University of Pittsburgh Medical Center (UPMC), also provided input for the writers of the show. And perhaps one of the coolest things I thought that happened at the Three Rivers set was a visit by Thomas E. Starzl. Starzl has been called "the father of modern transplantation." He performed the first human liver transplants and is considered one of the pioneers of transplants.

I like the show because it offers a certain view into something I'm trying to understand. While I'm sure a big part of it is my connection to the transplant world, I am also hoping to be educated. Maybe a show like this will raise awareness for organ donations.
In July of this year there were more than 102,000 men, women and children waiting for an organ transplant, according to the United Network for Organ Sharing (UNOS). On average there are about 18 people who die each day waiting for an organ transplant. This isn't a very large number, considering that there about 100 more who die each day in auto accidents. But it is a death toll just the same, and when added to another and another, one begins to realize lives can be saved.

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