When a potential donor organ becomes available at Yale-New Haven Hospital, employees from many departments spring into action, working together in a well-orchestrated effort to ensure precious organs reach those who need them as soon as possible.
The process begins with staff and physicians caring for the patient, who contact the New England Organ Bank (NEOB) when organ donation is possible. A specially trained NEOB representative talks with the patient's family about donation.
"Because these patients are critically ill, a hospital social worker and a chaplain have likely already been working with the family," said Carol Just, RN, MSN, co-chair of the York Street Campus Organ Donation Committee. "After the discussion about organ donation, the chaplain and social worker continue to provide support."
Once the family signs a donation authorization form, clinicians must assess the donor to identify which organs can be recovered and transplanted. Diagnostic Radiology performs CT scans, X-rays or other procedures; the Heart and Vascular Center will conduct cardiac catheterizations and/or echocardiograms on the donor's heart; and Pathology will perform blood and other tests for pancreas, liver and kidney donations. Respiratory Therapy helps maintain oxygen levels to keep organs healthy until surgeons and Operating Room staff can recover the life-saving organs.
"All of this happens very quickly," said Carla Hannon, APRN, co-chair of the Saint Raphael Campus Organ Donation Committee. "The ideal timeframe from family consent to organ removal is 24 to 32 hours."
At the same time, preparations are also under way at the hospital or hospitals where organ recipients are waiting. YNHH's Information Technology Services assists those preparations, by putting diagnostic images on a CD for the NEOB representative, who shares them with surgeons at the receiving hospital.
"All of the staff here understand the urgency of these requests," said Queen Cables, image library coordinator, ITS. "We drop everything to make sure this works. It's all about the patient who needs the organ."
"National Donate Life Month in April is a great time to recognize the many employees and physicians throughout Yale-New Haven involved in the organ donation and transplantation processes," Just said. "With a world-renowned Transplantation Center, YNHH plays an important role in reducing the waiting list for organs."
Throughout April, the YNHH Organ Donation Committees are providing information and opportunities for people to register as organ donors. An information table will be in the SRC cafeteria 11 am - 1 pm Wednesday, April 23 and Thursday, April 24. Information on becoming an organ donor is also available at http://donatelifenewengland.org.