Saving more lives together
Strengthening a system that saves tens of thousands of people every year
When the initial spread of COVID-19 abruptly shut down most of the U.S. in March, transplants dramatically decreased in our country and around the world. Within weeks, my colleagues in the donation and transplant community came together to find new ways to continue our lifesaving work.
Though the pandemic continues to challenge our donation and transplant operations, the strength of our community and the national organ donation and transplant system has shone through. In fact, we have performed 600 more deceased donor transplants in 2020 than we had by this time last year. By the end of September, we had saved 24,868 lives with transplants from deceased donors — and we’re still counting.
The system and its successful outcomes affect not only patients, but their families, friends and co-workers.
We’re constantly working to strengthen our system so we can help more patients, including 29-year-old Tash Smith, who was diagnosed with Type I diabetes when she was 10 and received a kidney-pancreas transplant in July. And Jesse Hankes, a young husband and father who received the lifesaving gift of a heart a few months earlier just as the pandemic began. But recently proposed changes to federal regulation could impact the effectiveness of a system that is strong enough to withstand a global pandemic.
Every step of the way, those involved in this collaborative process understand that the work we do goes beyond numbers and statistics. Our mission at UNOS is to improve and save the lives of people facing end stage organ failure.
Thanks to the organ procurement and donation system, Matthew Kuchera received a kidney and pancreas after years of waiting for a transplant, just as the COVID-19 pandemic erupted in March. Matthew now eagerly advocates on behalf of organ donation and the national transplant system so others can also experience the gift of a healthier life.
In May, Darmecia Woods-Crane received the call that an organ was available the same day as her son’s high school graduation. While she missed the ceremony to receive a liver transplant, she and her son now share a new beginning that started on that day. Today, Darmecia is back to teaching fifth grade.
The system has been saving lives for nearly 35 years for individuals such as Kim Uccellini, who was nine years old when she got a kidney transplant. Thirty years later, she’s still healthy and raising her own children — and now she works at UNOS to help others who need an organ transplant.
“We must close the gap between patients waiting and available organs to give every patient the transplant they need.”
David Klassen, M.D., Chief Medical Officer
On behalf of patients, we’re constantly innovating and working to make every part of the system better.
Organ procurement organizations, working with families and hospitals to identify potential donors, have increased the number of deceased donations year over year for the past nine years. Today, the number of patients receiving transplants has increased by 40 percent compared to eight years ago.
More than 100 patients are saved by organ donation and transplant every day, but theirs aren’t the only stories. Even with years of robust annual growth, there still aren’t enough organs for everyone waiting. We have to keep improving the system for the more than 100,000 people on the waiting list. We must close the gap between patients waiting and available organs to give every patient the transplant they need.
Above all else, those of us involved in organ donation and transplant champion the gift of life. Clinicians like me have witnessed the continued success of our national system, and we believe in it — and our patients believe in it, too.
If you also believe in the strength of our national organ donation and transplant system, please share this post with the hashtag #SavingLivesTogether.