Organ recovery gains momentum at S&W

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Ontario’s healthcare system relies on organ and tissue donation to improve the quality of life for some, and to save others. Donations from one individual can help dozens of people in need. In Ontario, more than 1,700 people are currently waiting for life-saving or life-enhancing transplants. As the population steadily ages, organ and tissue donation will become an increasingly important issue.

Sunnybrook & Women’s has participated in organ donation for many years by offering the option of donation to families. Each year, approximately 25 families give consent to organ donation. However, to complete the process, patients were transferred to another hospital for the organ recovery. Recently, the OR and Related Services Directorate announced that organ recovery will now take place at the Sunnybrook Campus. The goal of implementing an Organ Recovery Program was set more than a year ago. Implementation of this service will alleviate the added burden of changing hospitals for families faced with an already traumatic situation.

“We have been working for a long time to implement organ recovery on-site,” says Jane de Lacy, Director of Operations, OR and Related Services Directorate, Sunnybrook & Women’s. “It’s very hard on the families to transfer patients to another hospital for the donation process. The family will lose contact with the staff who have been with them as they came to the decision to donate.

Only a small percentage of all deaths at Sunnybrook & Women’s are patients who will qualify for organ donation. “These patients typically have sudden and unexpected deaths, leaving the family in a state of crisis,” says Danielle Herold, In Hospital Organ & Tissue Donation Coordinator with Trillium Gift of Life Network (TGLN). “Moving the patient to another hospital at this stage can be extremely daunting for the family during this stressful time. Another hospital is a new physical environment filled with new faces.”

There is a six to eight hour time period from the time of consent for organ donation to surgical recovery. During this time, the patient will undergo a number of tests, and TGLN will coordinate surgeons from various transplant centres around the province to perform the recovery. Sunnybrook & Women’s will provide two OR nurses, an anesthesiologist and the operating room. The surgeons who will be performing the transplant will travel to Sunnybrook & Women’s to perform the organ recovery. Since a patient can donate multiple organs, several surgeons are involved in one surgery.

Late this summer, Sunnybrook & Women’s performed its first recovery trial. “When other hospitals were unable to provide the operating room resources, S&W quickly stepped up to the plate and organized the staff and operating room. Performing the operation at S&W was a huge benefit to the family,” said Danielle Herold.

After the recovery process has taken place, the patient’s family is given the chance to visit and say their final good-bye to their loved one. If the family would like to know, TGLN will provide the family with information on the outcome of the donation. The Family and Aftercare Program at TGLN provide follow up with the donor family including an annual Memorial serviceand by acting as a link to bereavment resources in the community.