By Ed Howe
Former president and CEO, Aurora Health Care
There is such a great need for more organ donors in this country. The holiday season can be a perfect time to discuss the idea with family members as you gather to enjoy time together. These are often topics loved ones avoid discussing, but these are important issues that can help save lives.
In New York, a new program is being tested that could help increase the chances for successful kidney donations. The city is trying out a process that would send two ambulances to a location when a person is reported in cardiac arrest and is also identified as a registered organ donor. The goal is to recover organs more quickly from registered donors.
When efforts by the first ambulance team, to save a patient’s life, fail and if the victim is a registered organ donor, a newly created dispatch unit monitoring emergency calls will instruct secondary crews, called Organ Preservation Units, to bring the victim to a medical center where their kidneys can be recovered.
Once a family member confirms the person is an organ donor, two-person organ preservation teams will begin cardiopulmonary resuscitation on the deceased person in an effort keep blood flowing to their organs during transport to a local hospital.
Once the team has arrived at the medical center, the deceased will undergo extracorporeal membrane oxygenation, a technique that provides artificial cardiac and respiratory support to the body and resuscitates organs when the heart has stopped beating.
Nationally about 109,000 people are waiting for life-saving organ transplants according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. The mayor of New York City says this new pilot program will help test a process that could transform the way we donate organs and help save many lives. If it works, think about how many other cities could also implement this idea and the impact that could have.
The number of people who could benefit from an increase in organ donation is huge. Way too many people die who could have benefitted from a donation, yet many, many people who want to donate when they die do not have their wishes fulfilled. This pilot program is potentially very exciting. If it shows good results, it should go nationwide.