Entries in Organ Donation (8)


New Jersey Father Donates Cornea to Legally Blind Son

Jupiterimages/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- Tom Bestwick enjoyed the open road, especially the feeling he got when riding his Harley Davidson through the back roads of southern New Jersey with his son, Tom.

But on July 17, 2012, Tom Bestwick would ride for for the last time.  His 1997 silver CMC motorcycle collided with a Buick La Saber in Quinton, N.J.  He was rushed to Christiana Hospital in Delaware, but doctors could not save his life.

His unexpected death, however, left his family with an unexpected gift.

"I never would have even dreamed of it," said his son, Tom, 32, who is legally blind.

In 1987, Tom, then 7, was celebrating another Thanksgiving in Pennsville, N.J., with his family when he and his younger brother, Paul, had found a Bungee cord and wanted to see just how far the giant elastic string would stretch.

"It flung back and caught me in my left eye.  I went blind instantly," said Tom.  "Everything happened so fast.  It didn't even hurt."

For the next month, Tom wore an eye patch.  Five years later, he underwent an inner ocular lens transplant -- the first in a handful of surgeries to improve his damaged sight.

"Doctors at that time questioned if the surgery would even work or not," said Tom.  "I got some sight back amazingly enough.  But I was legally blind."

For years, Tom needed surgery to correct the sight in his damaged left eye.  His ophthalmologist suggested the idea of laser eye surgery to help minimize the original scarring on his cornea.  But Tom hesitated to try such new technology.

"I never put a second thought into a transplant of any sort," he said.  "I just figured my vision is what it is."

But his father was a registered organ donor, and Tom and his family began to wonder, what if?

Tom's aunt, Kathy Hughes, asked if Tom could use his father's cornea to help correct the vision in his left eye.  A cornea transplant had never been considered.  The family wondered whether it was even possible.

Corneas must be transplanted within 12 to 14 days, and the clock was ticking.

"It all had to be precise," said Hughes, who has worked as a transplant coordinator at the Gift of Life Donor Program, an organ procurement organization.  "We had to stay on top of this to make sure it happened."

She reached out to Christiana Hospital in Newark, Del., where Tom's father had died, to find an eye surgeon.  And to keep it all "under one roof," Hughes coordinated with Christiana Hospital, the Gift of Life Program and Wills Eye Institute in Philadelphia

Dr. Parveen Nagra, a corneal surgeon at Wills Eye Institute, agreed to perform the surgery after hearing Tom's story.

Nagra she'd never encountered a situation quite like Tom's.

"It was a very emotional time for him having learned very unexpectedly of his father's premature death, and to make these decisions," she said.  "He felt very strongly about getting his father's cornea."

Nagra performed the surgery four days after Tom's father died.  When Tom went back for a follow-up checkup, it was the day of his father's funeral.

"A loss of a loved one, and certainly a donation doesn't take that away, but it does give people hope that their loved one somehow lives on in the recipient," said Nathan Howard, CEO and president of the Gift of Life Donor Program.  "It really is a living legacy."

Tom Bestwick's legacy also lives on through others who received his other organs, including his kidneys, skin, bone and other tissues.

"This is what he wanted.  We got a really nice letter from the recipient of one of his kidneys," said his son.  "His liver and lungs went to science and I got his cornea."

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Woman Dies While Donating Kidney to Relative

Jupiterimages/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- Montefiore Hospital in New York voluntarily suspended its live donor organ transplant program after a woman who was trying to donate a kidney to a relative died during an operation, according to a hospital source.

The voluntary move by the hospital has drawn attention to the possible dangers of living organ donation, and some experts say the case may dissuade some who are contemplating becoming a live donor to follow through.

The incident, which is now under investigation by the state health department, is the first live donor operation death to occur at the hospital, according to hospital sources.

"The patient experienced a rare complication of this surgery," according to a spokeswoman for the hospital, who would not confirm details of the case.  "The doctors recognized the problem and took extensive steps to save the patient's life."

More than 900 people nationwide have participated as living donors since January 2012, according to data by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Organ Procurement and Transplantation Network.  Kidney and liver are among the most common organs donated by a living person.

"[Live organ donation] is incredibly important because there are not enough cadaver organs to go around," said Dr. Jonathon Bromberg, chief of the division of transplantation at the University of Maryland.  "Live organ donations allow us to save more lives."

Bromberg said however rare a fatal complication may be, the number of willing donors plummet when people hear about cases where a transplant goes wrong.

"We often do see a decrease in people willing to be a living or deceased donor," he said.  "We do have very direct conversations with those who are considering being a donor about the risks."

Live organ donations are among the most highly regulated procedures, not just by the hospitals but federal agencies including the Health Resources and Services Administration, according to Dr. Alan Koffron, chairman of surgery and director of the transplant program at William Beaumont hospital in Royal Oak, Mich.

"It's so well controlled and so well regulated that it's typical that when something goes wrong the center shuts down to find what's wrong," said Koffron.  "We're trying to be good stewards of this procedure."  

Organs from live donors are more likely to function sooner in the recipient's body and be of better quality than an organ from a deceased donor since the live donor organ has only been out of the body for a short time.  Living donor and recipient surgeries are typically done on the same day to help preserve the organ.

Evidence also suggests that recipients of live donor organs live longer and have a better quality of life.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Teen Double Transplant Recipient Heads Home

Jupiterimages/Thinkstock(MILWAUKEE) -- A Chicago teenager is finally going home Wednesday after getting the transplant he needed to survive.

When Thomas Castillo was just 15-years-old, doctors told him that he had a 50 percent chance of living.  The Chicago native was suffering from congenital heart and liver failure, and while waiting for transplants had a stroke.  Transplant hopes were dwindling until a donor became available to provide Thomas with both a heart and a liver.

“[The doctor] smiled and he said ‘how would you like to go to surgery today?’  Are you kidding, wait are you serious, and I was so ecstatic I hugged him,” Linda Rebeles, Thomas’ Grandmother, told ABC News' Milwaukee affiliate WISN.

In February, Dr. James Tweddel led the heart transplant team at Milwaukee’s Children’s Hospital.

“The transplant was a coordinated effort.  A donor became available, whom we could obtain an excellent heart and liver and the operation took place over 17 hours,” said Dr. Tweddel.

Thomas’ surgery was the first-ever double transplant done on a child under 17 in Wisconsin.  Leaving the hospital sporting his new Packer’s jersey, Thomas said he’d like to return the favor by becoming a heart transplant surgeon himself one day.

As for his family, they say none of this would be possible without organ donations.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Virginia Man Receives New Face in Transplant

University of Maryland Medical Center(WASHINGTON) -- Doctors at the University of Maryland Medical Center performed the most extensive full face transplant to date, replacing everything from the hairline to the collar bone of a 37-year-old man, including the upper and lower jaw bones, teeth, and a portion of the tongue. The operation took place over 36 hours on March 19 and 20 and involved more than 200 medical professionals.

The face transplant was part of a 72-hour marathon of organ donation at the center, in which five patients received organs from one anonymous donor.

The effort is being hailed as remarkable for the generosity of the donor and the scope of the operation, as well as scientific advancements that enabled the transplant.

A week after the surgery, the recipient of the face, Richard Norris of Hillsville, Virginia, is moving his jaws, opening and closing his eyes, brushing his teeth and shaving, doctors said in a press conference Tuesday.

Norris suffered a gun accident in 1997 that left him with just a skull, eyes and part of his jaw. Doctors said he has been living in near-seclusion since the accident, wearing a mask when he went out in public. Dr. Eduardo Rodriguez, the surgeon leading the operation, said he had performed 12 different surgeries on Norris since 2005, but was never able to restore his face.

With the transplant, "we were able to restore those 15 years that he's lost and make him a functioning member of society once again," Rodriguez said.

The face transplant was part of a 72-hour operation at the hospital during which four other patients received organs donated from the same anonymous donor -- a heart, lung, liver and kidney.

The process began at 9:30 p.m. on Saturday, March 17, when the donor was identified and doctors began to evaluate characteristics for a match-like skin tone and overall health. At 4 a.m. on Monday, the team began a 12-hour effort to remove the face from the donor. Doctors then connected the bones, muscles, tongue, nerves and blood vessels to Norris, using computers to guide them. The surgery was complete at 4 p.m. on Tuesday.

The surgery was the 23rd face transplant since doctors began doing the procedure in 2005.

Dr. Stephen Bartlett, chair of the department of surgery at the University of Maryland, said the operation was the culmination of 10 years of research funded by the Office of Naval Research, which hopes to put the knowledge to use for soldiers injured in combat.

Bartlett said his research team discovered that using the whole jaw bone made it easier for the body to handle the transplant.

"We believe that scientific finding will allow Mr. Norris to have much more long-term chance of success with much lower levels of immune suppression," Bartlett said.

Rodriguez said Norris has been able to see his new face already.

Three days after surgery, "he wanted to see a mirror," Rodriguez said. After seeing his new face, "he put the mirror down and thanked me and hugged me."

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Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


16-Year-Old’s Death Becomes a Life-Changing Gift

Jupiterimages/Thinkstock(PLATTE, S.D.) -- Andrea Cleveland was leaving her boyfriend’s home just south of Platte, S.D., last November when her car hit loose gravel and rolled.

She died from the injuries she sustained in the crash.

Just 16, Andrea was a new driver who had decided to become an organ donor when she got her driver’s license. Her decision likely saved the lives of several others.

This week, 2 1/2-year-old Keegan Johnson of Fridley, Minn., and 30-year-old Meleah Richter, of Northfield, Minn., met Andrea’s family. Keegan was the recipient of Andrea’s liver; Richter received her lungs. Andrea also donated her pancreas, kidneys, eyes, heart valves and other tissues.

“Of course you can tell that she was a very caring person by her being a donator,” said her mother, Marlene Cleveland, in an interview with ABC Minneapolis affiliate KSTP. “It was her idea, it was her choice.”

It was only after Andrea was declared brain dead, and hospital personnel noted that the teen’s license indicated that she was an organ donor, that her parents learned of their daughter’s special generosity.

Andrea’s friends told her parents she was proud of her decision.

“She came to school first thing, and was like ‘I got my driver’s license,’ and ‘I’m a donor, I’m a donor,’” friends told her father, Jeff Cleveland. ” She made a big deal out of it that she was a donor.”

In Richter’s eyes, Andrea lives on, “She didn’t deserve to go but she’s an angel now, she’s my angel, she’s Keegan’s angel, she’s everybody’s.”

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


New Transplant Technique Keeps Lungs Breathing Before Transplants

New York Presbyterian Hospital(NEW YORK) -- Nancy Bloch, 60, of Westchester, N.Y., was physically fit and had no history of medical problems, but a routine checkup that involved a quick listen to her chest detected something she recalled her physician's assistant saying, "didn't sound right."

Bloch was diagnosed in 2007 with a rare lung disease called diffuse interstitial lung disease.  After her diagnosis, her health started quickly deteriorating.

After seven unsuccessful attempts to undergo a routine double-lung transplant, Bloch became in August the second patient so far at New York-Presbyterian Hospital to successfully undergo a revolutionary experimental approach to lung transplantation that could offer potentially more viable lungs to more patients like Bloch who are on the recipient wait list.

The technique, called "ex vivo" -- or, outside the body -- involves taking the lungs that were removed from the donor and placing them in a transparent case, where they are hooked up to a pump and ventilator.  The lungs are closely monitored for up to four hours as they are nourished with nutrients and antibiotics and pumped with oxygen.

In the traditional lung-transplant approach, the lungs are assessed in the deceased donor's body before being removed. If the lung is considered viable, it is stored in cold temperatures within a short window of time before the transplant.

But the new preservation technique "revives" the lungs in a transparent box by gradually warming the lungs to normal body temperature, and the organ is reinstated in an environment as if it is in the body. The lungs are assessed and reconditioned in the operating room until the final minute before being placed in the recipient's body.

In 2011, nearly 1,400 lung transplants were performed, according to the Organ Procurement and Transplantation Network, part of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

"We have the potential to increase, even double, the number of transplants we're performing, and to satisfy the needs for more lung transplants," Dr. Frank D'Ovidio, the associate surgical director of the lung transplant program at NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital, said.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Parents Donate Child's Organs After Accidental Death

Keith Brofsky/Thinkstock(ASHEVILLE, N.C.) -- Skateboarding was one of young Niyale Johnson's beloved hobbies.  That's exactly what the middle-schooler was doing two weeks ago with a couple of friends in her Asheville, N.C., home when her father heard a terrible scream.

Niyale fell through a plate of glass.  She was cut but conscious, and her father took her to the hospital.

Her parents didn't panic, because she seemed fine.  But suddenly, her mother told ABC News affiliate WLOS-TV, things went very wrong.

A piece of glass pierced one of her heart valves and got stuck in her spine.  She never regained consciousness after surgery, and after 11 days, her parents took her off life support and decided to donate their dead daughter's organs.

"You make decisions on what they should eat, and just -- what they should wear, and you go from that to should I donate my child's organs," Niyale's father, Demetrius McGee, told WLOS.

But their daughter loved to help people, and it was in that spirit that Niyale's parents made their decision.

"That's what she would have wanted, because she's a helper.  That's what she always does.  She helped everybody," McGee said.

According to the United Network for Organ Sharing, there are more than 110,00 people nationwide waiting for organ transplants who could benefit from the family's generosity.  The American Academy of Pediatrics said in a 2010 study that 2 to 3 percent of those individuals on transplant waiting lists are children younger than 17.

Niyale's parents hope that their tragedy can bring joy to others who need it.

"I just feel like if another child out there can be saved, or adult or anything, that's the best thing that we can possibly do," McGee told WLOS.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Timing Can Be Everything in Organ Donation

Jupiterimages/Thinkstock(ROTTERDAM, Netherlands) -- Organ donation and transplant is all about timing. The organs have to be harvested quickly to remain viable and must be transplanted within hours to increase the likelihood that the new organ will take.

One of the most controversial aspects of the donation-time equation is choosing when to discuss donation with a potential donor’s family. Should discussions begin when brain death is deemed inevitable, or should they wait until neurological tests can confirm brain death?

From a medical perspective, the sooner discussions and arrangements for donation occur, the more likely the transplant will succeed. From a psychological standpoint, talking to family members about organ donation too soon could unnecessarily upset them and, according to research from the Netherlands published Thursday, make them less willing to go through with donation.

In the specific Netherlands hospital studied, researchers found that before 1998 organ donation was not discussed with the family until all neurological tests had confirmed brain death. After 1998, discussions began a little earlier, after the loss of consciousness and brain stem reflexes but before confirmatory neurological tests.

They found that when discussions began early, the number of families opting for organ donation dropped from 89 percent through most of the 1990s to 58 percent between 1998 to 2009.

While it is impossible to say whether the timing of the discussion played into the decline in families opting for donation, the research raises a difficult question: How can these discussions be timed to minimize the family’s discomfort while maximizing the chance that the organs can be harvested early enough for the transplant to succeed?

This question came up in September, when the United Network for Organ Sharing updated its guidelines to suggest that hospitals and organ donation organizations begin discussing the possibility of donation before raising it with the patient’s family. This change was intended to expedite the donation process when donation is possible and spare the family needless donation discussions in cases when it is not.

This change stirred controversy, however, because it requires donation discussions to begin, even if only among medical professionals, before the family has made the decision to withdraw life support.

Even if it makes it more likely that organ donation would succeed, broaching the idea before the patient has died remains a touchy topic, and it could scare some donors away, Dr. Michael Grodin, a professor of health law, bioethics and human rights at Boston University, told ABC News last September. He said he worried that any loosening of regulations surrounding organ donation could break down the “absolute trust” that must exist between donor families and doctors.

“Better to have fewer transplants and absolute trust in the system, or not only will there be individual problems, but this could actually lead to fewer families willing to donate,” he said.

At the same time, waiting too long to have the discussion may mean that “sometimes [it] is not logistically possible for donation to occur,” Dr. Jeffrey Punch, chief of the section of transplantation at the University of Michigan’s Department of Surgery countered. “This is tragic for that family, [because often] they desperately want their loved one’s last function on earth to be saving other’s lives, as well as to the recipients that do not benefit.”

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

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