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Every 10 minutes, another patient is added to the national registry to wait for a life-saving transplant. Current statistics paint a vivid picture revealing the demand for donor organs far exceeding the supply. In 2020 alone, more than 39,000 transplants were performed in the United States. While 2020 proved to be a record year in terms of volume, there continue to be more than 100,000 people waiting for the priceless gift of organ donation.
I was introduced to the world of transplant in Texas Children’s Cardiac Intensive Care Unit (CICU) as a bedside nurse. It was there that I recovered my first heart and lung transplant patients. I remember being fascinated by the medical management and complexities of the transplant patient population and I longed to understand the science behind it all. After working in the CICU for about a year-and-a-half, I had the wonderful opportunity to join the transplant team as a heart transplant coordinator. After being in this role for a very short time, I quickly realized I found my true passion in organ donation and transplantation.
As a transplant coordinator, I was an active participant in our multidisciplinary team and provided care coordination for patients from referral to transplantation. One of the most life-changing aspects of my role as a coordinator was having the privilege of calling families when we had a donor organ available for them. The sound of hope, inevitably resounded as we shared the wonderful news with our patients and their families. As I reflect, these life-changing calls may be some of the proudest moments in my career. During the transplant process, the coordinator is responsible for collaborating with those who are caring for the real hero, the donor. In preparation for the transplant process, coordinators organize efforts with the donor hospital, LifeGift, as well as our local team. The partnership between the admissions team, operating room staff, critical care teams, surgeons, transplant teams and countless others, truly provides a tangible definition of what team work really is!
Transplantation is not a cure, but does provide the opportunity to live a relatively “normal” life with the proper care of the transplanted organ. Transplant patients require lifelong follow-up and medication management to prevent rejection. Post-transplant, coordinators provide ongoing education, ensure appropriate follow-up and often serve as a liaison between the patient and the providers. Transplant coordination is a tough, but rewarding role. During my time, I saw life and death, I saw courage and resilience, but ultimately, I saw hope. I am forever grateful for the support and care I was able to provide to countless patients during my tenure with the heart transplant team.
I now have the opportunity to be a leader in Texas Children’s Transplant Services and it is one of my greatest honors. I am extremely proud of our heart, lung, liver and kidney transplant teams for their ongoing commitment and hard work, despite the COVID-19 pandemic. Although COVID-19 put many things on pause, the field of transplantation was not one of them. During this time, we navigated the unknowns with other transplant centers and organ procurement organizations to outline new practice standards and guidelines. While there were many hurdles to overcome, we continued to focus on our patients and their need for life-saving organs. Transplant Services continues to be a national leader in both transplant volumes and outcomes, and we realize it takes the dedication and commitment of so many people to properly care for our patients. No matter what your role is, if you have contact with a transplant patient, we thank you!
April is National Donate Life month. This is a month dedicated to raising awareness for organ and tissue donation. It is a month to reflect and show gratitude for the many courageous donors and donor families who chose to donate LIFE. If you haven’t considered being an organ donor, please do. Being an organ donor is a selfless act that can save up to eight lives. Donors leave a courageous legacy, and in some ways, are able to live on in transplant recipients. In the event a tragedy happens, will you commit to life? If your answer is yes, please visit www.RegisterMe.org to register to become an organ donor. To learn more about organ and tissue donation, please visit www.donatelife.net. Today and every day, we are grateful for our donors, our donor families.
I am humbled and grateful to be a part of the miraculous work that is done in Transplant Services at Texas Children’s Hospital. Ours is one of the largest and most active pediatric transplantation programs in the country. Click here to learn more about our services and programs for patients awaiting an organ transplant.