Entries in Organ Donors (2)


One Family, Five Heart Transplants

Stacy and Jason Bingham(HAINES, Ore.) -- Stacy and Jason Bingham of Haines, Ore., already had endured the arduous transplant waiting list until their oldest daughter, Sierra, now 12, found a match for a new heart.

Now, they may have to face four more rounds on the list. All five of their children have been diagnosed with genetic heart abnormalities.

For now, only one of the four additional children, who is being cared for at Lucille Packard Children’s Hospital in Palo Alto, Calif., has been placed on the transplant list. But if all five of the Bingham children receive new hearts, it will be the most heart transplants ever performed for a single family.

More than 3,000 adults and children are waiting for a heart transplant, a minority of whom are children, according to the Organ Donation and Procurement Network. An estimated 400 children undergo heart transplants each year.

Longer survival on the waiting list and a better prognosis post-transplant are some reasons why many children like the Binghams can expect to be treated successfully, according to Dr. Francis Fynn-Thompson, surgical director of the heart transplant program at Boston Children’s Hospital, who is not affiliated in the family’s care.

“Compared to a decade ago, we have options to bridge between heart transplants,” said Fynn-Thompson. “If a child’s heart gives out, we can put them on a device that can act like a heart in the interim.”

Children waiting for a heart transplant face the highest risk of dying compared to a child waiting for any other organ, according to study Fynn-Thompson and his colleagues published in 2009 in Circulation.

“The smallest hearts are the hardest to find,” said Fynn-Thompson.

For child recipients, the ordeal doesn’t end once the new organ has been located and transplanted. The surgery is followed by a lifetime of immunosuppressive medications to counter any possible side effects, including organ rejection. Unlike adult organ transplants, a child-size organ needs to be able to grow as the patient grows.  The child eventually transitions from a pediatric to an adult heart transplant cardiologist.

However, unlike an adult, many infants can be transplanted across blood types because they haven’t developed the antibodies, allowing for most infants to be transplanted without having to wait for a match.

The prognosis for heart transplant recipients are among the best compared to previous years. The six-month heart transplant survival rate increased from 86 percent in 1999 to 91 percent in 2009, according to the Scientific Registry of Transplant Recipients and the Organ Donation and Procurement Network annual data report.

“Our expectation is that their survival will be well beyond 10 years,” said Fynn-Thompson.

Seventy percent of children with heart transplants are alive after 10 years and 50 percent are alive after 15 years, he said.

While pediatric heart transplants are limited by an uncontrollably small donor pool, Fynn-Thompson said the focus should be on helping children who are on the list live longer while they wait.

“Devices like the Berlin heart and other assisting devices coming down the pike are applicable to children,” said Fynn-Thompson.

It’s these methods that can help one child, even five in one family, live long enough before given the heart they need, he said.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


States See Instant Spike in Organ Donors Following Facebook Push

iStockphoto/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- Organ donation registries in 10 states reported many new volunteer donors Tuesday—the first day of a new initiative that allowed Facebook users to sign up to become organ donors—as they typically see in one month.

According to stats from Donate Life America, a nonprofit group partnering with the social network, California alone witnessed a 700 percent increase over the number of volunteers on a typical day.

By Tuesday evening, 100,000 people had declared themselves organ donors on their Facebook profiles, a critical step, physicians said, in speeding the organ donation process because it lets families know their relatives' wishes.

Among those 100,000 users, 10,000 had linked through Facebook to sign up directly with their state organ donation registries.

Surgeons and transplant advocates have heralded the program, calling the initiative, which allows users to share their decision to donate, a "game changer."

More than 112,000 Americans are awaiting organs, and 18 people die every day from the lack of available organs, according to Donate Life America. Though more than 90 percent of Americans support donation, only 42 percent are registered donors.

Those in the transplant community view Facebook as a means of increasing donation in three ways: by increasing the number of potential donors; guaranteeing that families know the wishes of their loved ones; and helping match live donors with needy recipients.

"I think it's possible that we will see an impact over the next couple of years, where we would imagine eliminating the transplant waiting list," Dr. Andrew Cameron, a transplant surgeon at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine who helped bring the idea to Facebook, told ABC News.

Eliminating the waiting list would save the lives of thousands of people who die every year while waiting for viable organs. Furthermore, it could spell the end of dialysis, rendering the procedure in many cases unnecessary if patients could receive new kidneys immediately.

"We've got 100,000 people waiting. Each donor can help three or four of those waiting. If we could do twice as well as we're doing now, if we could get another 10,000 donors a year, I think we could have that transplant waiting list down to almost nothing in three or four years. That would be a spectacular moment in medical history and in the history of public health. And I think if we all get together and do it, it's going to happen," he said.

The site allows people looking for an organ to share stories and for recent recipients to share stories as well, said David Flemming, president of Donate Life America.

The following 10 states reported a significant spike in registered donors on Tuesday: Colorado, Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, Michigan, Nebraska, Nevada, New Hampshire, Rhode Island and Wyoming.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

ABC News Radio