In the previous post of this series, we discussed how The LLF receives referral calls for potential donors and how our Donor Service Coordinators (DSCs) initially decide if donation is possible. In Part 3, we will continue to explore the referral process.
Potential Organ Donors
You’ll remember that a patient MUST be on a ventilator in order to be an organ donor. Organs are only suitable for transplant if they are being kept healthy by a flow of oxygen from a ventilator. If a patient is on a ventilator and does not have active cancer, the organ referral process may continue.
Gamechanger: The HOPE Act
Up until March 2016, an HIV positive patient was also an automatic rule-out for organ and tissue donation. Thanks to the passing of the HOPE Act in 2013, it is now legal for HIV positive donors to donate to HIV positive recipients. This will save hundreds of lives every year and reduce the transplant wait time for everyone listed! The first HIV positive to HIV positive transplant has already been performed at The Johns Hopkins University.
If a potential donor is not initially ruled out by active cancer, the DSC sends a notification to the Organ Recovery Coordinator (ORC) on call. The ORC will call the hospital unit and speak with the patient’s nurse to gather more information. ORCs ask about the reason for admission, current clinical course, lab work, medical history, and anything else that will help them determine if the patient is suitable for donation.
MYTH: I cannot be a donor due to pre-existing medical conditions.
FACT: Every potential donor is evaluated on a case-by-case basis. We encourage everyone to sign up as donors if that is their wish, regardless of medical conditions.
Potential Tissue Donors
The process for potential tissue donors is slightly different. If a patient is not a candidate for organ donation, but is a candidate for tissue donation, then the DSC will continue the referral process by gathering medical information. A patient does not have to be on a ventilator to be a tissue donor. The only requirement is that tissues must be recovered within 24 hours of the time of death.
Due to the nature of tissue donation, there are more diseases and medical conditions that would rule a patient out for tissue donation than for organ donation. However, we still encourage everyone who wishes to be a donor to register regardless of any pre-existing conditions. Not only are many conditions still acceptable for tissue donation, but considering the rate at which health care advances, a condition that is a rule-out now could be completely accepted in the future.
Once a DSC has determined tissue donation is possible they will activate the Tissue Recovery team to go on-site and continue the evaluation.
We will continue with our Donor Service Technicians and recovery teams and break down the on-site evaluation of donors. We will also explain the different types of donors and the ways that organ and tissue donors can save lives.