Organ donors leave lasting impact

Christina Stavale

For the increasing number of organ donors, their impact on the world continues after death.

On Oct. 14, 1991, Tessa Farese, sophomore interior design major, received the gift of life in the form of a donated liver.

Farese was born with biliary atresia – a condition she described as being born without an outer bile duct.

Doctors said a transplant was her last resort.

At about 10 p.m., Oct. 13, 1991, Farese said she was watching television with her mom and brother when her mother received a phone call from the hospital.

“They found a liver,” she said to her daughter. “They found a liver.”

Farese recalled sitting on the couch and crying. She said she was at the hospital for the operation by midnight – her operation was the next day.

A collaborative effort

In a LifeBanc presentation yesterday, Gordon Bowen, executive director of LifeBanc, and Dennis Wagner, director of the National Organ Donation Collaborative, presented a new plan, the Collaborative Method, to improve the success rates of organ transplants.

“The problem is that 95,000 people are waiting for an organ that could save or enhance their lives,” Wagner explained.

Wagner presented ideas for collaborative method, which involved goals and collaborative work to lower the number of people waiting for organs. He said the goal for the plan is to achieve organ donation rates of 75 percent or higher in the nation’s largest hospitals and to transplant an average of 3.75 organs per donor.

From 1999-2003, Wagner said there were about 425 to 550 donors per month. Collaborative Method began in 2004, and since then, many months had a record number of donations – peaking with 733 in May 2006.

“It works,” said Wagner. “This is no longer unusual or experimental.”

Unknown facts

Bowen said one of the most common myths regarding organ donation is that physicians will not do everything they can to save a donor’s life.

In addition, since most deaths that allow for organ donations are unexpected, Bowen said the stress and spontaneity from the death of a loved one keeps families from donating.

To prevent miscommunication, he encouraged people to talk with their families about their after-death wishes.

Wagner added there is no cost involved, and one donation can save or enhance the lives of up to 50 people.

Bowen said polls show 90 percent of the public supports organ donation.

“If given the chance to save someone’s life, people will do so,” he said.

Wagner said organ donations do not disfigure the body and open casket funerals are still possible.

Farese said she appreciated the fact that organ donation is available.

“It saved my life and others can save a life too,” she said.

Contact news correspondent Christina Stavale at [email protected].