HCN News & Notes

National Donate Life Month in April Brings Attention to the Need for More Organ Donors 

SPRINGFIELD— Last year there were more than 41,000 transplants in the United States from 20,300 donors who brought renewed life to patients and their families and communities. 

According to Donate Life America, still there are more than 107,000 people waiting for lifesaving organ transplants, only a fraction of whom will have their wishes fulfilled this year. Also, another person is added to the nation’s organ transplant waiting list every 9 minutes. And, 85% of patients on the national waiting list are waiting for a kidney. 

Baystate Medical Center offers the only transplant services in Western Mass. for adult patients requiring kidney transplants, with some 166 patients currently on its waiting list.  

April is National Donate Life Month. The arrival of the spring season is a time of new life that calls to mind the many men, women and children whose lives have been saved or healed by organ, eye and tissue donations and the need for more organ donors, both living and deceased.  

Last year, more than 6,500 living donors in the U.S. made the decision to give one of their kidneys or part of their liver to someone waiting for a second chance at life. Still more are needed. 

“Becoming a living donor is a growing option today for altruistic donors who want to give the gift of life. More living donors are needed because the number of organs available from deceased donors is not enough to meet the growing demands of patients awaiting organ transplants,” said Dr. Kenneth McPartland, surgical director of Kidney Transplantation, Transplant Division, at Baystate Medical Center.  

“As a deceased donor, you can help more than 50 people needing organs or tissues,” he added. 

One person can donate their heart, lungs, liver, kidneys, pancreas, and intestines for organ transplantation. In addition, cornea donation could give two people the gift of sight back, and tissue donation could change the lives of as many as 75 people in need. 

As part of Donate Life Month, the public is encouraged to sign organ donor cards. Potential donors need only to sign a donor card, indicate their wishes on their driver’s license, or register online at donatelifenewengland.org.  

However, while a signed donor card, online registration and a driver’s license with an ‘organ donor’ designation are legal documents, organ and tissue donation should always be discussed with family members prior to any donation so they are well 

aware of your wishes, noted McPartland. 

All potential donors must be in good health and before being accepted as a living donor will undergo a number of medical tests by Baystate Medical Center’s Transplant Team to make sure they are a suitable candidate. Living kidney donors must be over the age of 18.  

Baystate Medical Center participates in a national exchange, or ‘swap’ program that allows incompatible pairs the opportunity to move forward in the process. The hospital participates in what is referred to as a voucher program, allowing persons to donate now, and receive a voucher that would guarantee a loved one a kidney later when they need it.  

Transplant surgeons use the latest techniques, including minimally invasive surgery, so that patients experience a faster recovery and spend less time in the hospital. In addition to experienced surgeons, the Baystate Transplant Team includes nephrologists, nurse transplant coordinators, dietitians, pharmacists, social workers, financial councilors, as well as administrative and clinical assistants to help guide patients through the process. Living or deceased donor renal transplant is the preferred treatment of end-stage renal disease. 

To learn more about becoming a living kidney donor, call Baystate Medical Center’s Transplant Services at (413) 794-2321.To learn more about organ and tissue donation, contact LifeChoice Donor Services at 1-800-874-5215. Also, for more information on Baystate Medical Center’s Kidney Transplant Program, visit https://www.baystatehealth.org/services/surgery/specialties/transplant.