Santa Clarita Hospital A National Award-Winner for Organ and Tissue Donations
Organ donors and tissue donors can give the gift of life to someone the donor may or may not know. There are few if any greater gifts one human can give another. Organs and tissue from donors through Henry Mayo Newhall Memorial Hospital have improved the lives of dozens of people in 2011 and 2012, in the Santa Clarita Valley and beyond.
“Sixty-one lives have been impacted positively through different ways,” said Dee M. Rickett, Henry Mayo’s director of Critical Care Services. “Seven hearts and nine lungs were donated to patients waiting on the organ recipient list. Sixteen people received livers and 29 got new kidneys.”
Donate Life in April and All Year Long at Henry Mayo
In April, National Organ Donation Month, Henry Mayo honored the 18 organ and 46 organ tissue donors who gave their gifts of life this past year. Rickett and members of the Henry Mayo team and One Legacy team members who coordinate organ donations and placement program held a special “Donate Life” banner-raising ceremony on the flagpole in front of the hospital’s main entrance on McBean Parkway.
Henry Mayo is one of seven hospitals out of 22 in the greater Los Angeles area recently recognized with a Silver Medal by the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services for achieving top organ donation rates. It was the fifth medal Henry Mayo has received for excellence in the organ donation process.
The Henry Mayo organ donation team will fly the “Donate Life” flag each time an organ is donated through the hospital. Pictured are (from left): Vivian Zinn, RN Director of Emergency Services; Sue Walroth, RN Director of Telemetry Services; Dustin Ashenfelder, RN Clinical Manager of Emergency Services; Emma Barker, RN ER; Kim Stump, RN ER; Mark Janelle, RN ER; Jennifer Fitzpatrick, RN Clinical Manager of Critical Care Services; Margery Link, Chaplain; Lisa Frost, RN Palliative Care Navigator; Darrin Privett, MD Emergency Services; Jessica Harris, RN ICU; Jennifer DiSarro, RN ICU, and Anne Front, LMFT.
Some vital organs come in multiples, like eyes and corneas, lungs, kidneys, skin cells, bone marrow. Live or “direct” donors can often spare one organ and a little tissue if the other organ and the rest of the body are in good physical condition.
Most vital organs, though, like hearts and livers, have no such built-in redundancy. If one starts to fail and a replacement can’t be located before it fails completely — due to lack of availability, time, distance, logistics, human error, a combination of all — the patient won’t make it.
An organ transplant benefits not just the person who gets a faltering organ replaced by one that works, resulting in a better quality of life. An organ transplant also makes life easier for the caregivers who have helped the patient survive while waiting for a matching organ donation to come up on state or national organ donor registries.
Register to Donate Organs and Tissue at DMV, ‘Donate Life’ Website
More than 114,000 people have signed up nationally for the next available compatible organ, and many of them suffer diminished quality of life as they wait.
Many California drivers have already opted in as organ donors and become part of the state registries by checking a box on their application for a driver’s license or renewal. That helps speed the process or organ donation.
“The Department of Motor Vehicles, the DMV, asks everyone who is a licensed driver to decide if they would like to participate by putting a pink dot on their driver’s license,” Rickett said. “If you’ve done that, you’ve already consented to being an organ donor. You would then be considered for donation by the organ procurement team.
You can also go to the Donate Life California donor registry website and sign up as a potential donor. But most people use that pink dot.”
While millions of potential organ donors have registered, not all of them qualify as healthy donors. It’s a challenge for health care providers to match organs, blood types, donor/recipient ages and other criteria factoring into a good match. So there’s still a shortage of many organs, and an ongoing public health outreach campaign to encourage more people to become potential organ donors.
Organ Donation Overseen by OneLegacy
Federal and state health authorities established registries like Donate Life California to improve the flow of information about availability of who donated what organs, where and when, and for how long. The goal was to cut down on unnecessary deaths.
That pink dot on your driver’s license or California ID card sets the organ donation evaluation process into motion in California hospitals, where managing organ donations and matching them with recipients is the domain of OneLegacy by state law.
“When you come into the hospital and are unfortunate enough to be near end of life, OneLegacy is contacted,” Rickett said. “We tell them we have a person they need to sit with and review their case. OneLegacy has their own medical team, and they evaluate patients for appropriateness of donation.”
The OneLegacy team is highly skilled in talking with patients and loved ones about end-of-life issues.
“They are very specifically trained in how to be sensitive, compassionate, to a patient’s family during such a difficult time,” Rickett said.
“Let’s say the patient is not eligible for one or more different reasons,” she said. “Then, OneLegacy would not approach the patient or the family. If they feel there is a possibility the patient can donate, then OneLegacy will approach to request consent.”
Children, Organ Donation and the Grieving Process
The death of a child or young adult is especially traumatic for loved ones, and Rickett said donating the child’s healthy organs is one thing that she has seen help grieving family members deal with their loss.
“I was a pediatric nurse for many years, and now work in an adult environment,” she said. “Often with the patients I’ve worked with, (organ donation) was a way for the family to somehow make sense of the tragic loss of their child. Somehow, in order for families to cope, if they can find some good out of the tragedy, then it really helps people heal through the process of anyone’s loss. That’s true whether it’s a child or your parent or your sibling, your grandma or grandpa.
“And in particular, the parents of young children are actually grateful that their child was able to donate and help the life of another person, usually also a child,” Rickett said.
“Or, in the adult population… I was with a young man who was going to pass, and all of his organs went to the adult world,” she said. “That young man helped save the life of a mother of three. There are just many, many stories like that. They’re very tearful, but happy tears for the recipients, and maybe happy tears for the donor families, that they’re able to help. But it’s always a tragic loss, and what I try and look at is we’re trying to make something good come out of a tragedy.”
Group photo: Stephen K. Peeples; others courtesy Donate Life California.
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Source: Santa Clarita News