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How Organ Procurement Organizations Help Save Lives

Steve Miller

CEO, Association of Organ Procurement Organizations

Organ procurement organizations are the bridge between organ donors and recipients. They work with donor families, hospitals, and transplant programs to facilitate a successful donation and transplant matching process.

Meet Joe. Joe received a lifesaving heart transplant, and his life was made bright again because of the generous gift from an organ donor and their family. Joe’s donor happily made the decision to be an organ, eye, and tissue donor when she renewed her license, and her family was honored to uphold her wishes on the day she passed.

Beginning the process

The care Joe’s donor and her family received during this difficult time was provided by everyday heroes from organ procurement organizations (OPOs). OPOs serve as the vital link between donors and recipients, and they work tirelessly every day to ensure those who are waiting for their life-saving transplant have a second chance at life. 

OPOs also work hand-in-hand with hospitals to clinically support the organ donor. Once the donor is deemed medically suitable to donate, the OPO works with transplant centers to find a recipient that will be the perfect match. Recipients like Joe, who are waiting for an organ transplant, are listed by their medical urgency, time on the waiting list, and geographic location. The organ transplant waiting list does not reference race, gender, age, income, or social status. Joe’s transplant surgeon is responsible for making the decision whether to accept the donated organ for transplant or not. The OPO worked tirelessly with the transplant team to ensure the donor’s heart and Joe were a perfect match.

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Providing support

These everyday OPO heroes provide compassionate care and grief support to donor families before, during, and after their loved one’s donation, ensuring the family is not alone. OPOs help support donor families as they learn that their loved one has died. Even after the passing of the donor, the OPO is there to help support the donor family with grief counseling services, or they just simply stay available to listen to help support the family through their grief process. OPOs also provide opportunities for donor families to join others in remembering their loved ones during annual organ donor remembrance ceremonies. OPOs are there to support donor families and provide them peace of mind knowing that their loved one’s legacy will live on through their generous gift.

Joe hopes to meet his donor’s family one day to learn more about his generous, selfless donor and to thank her family for graciously thinking of others during their tragedy. Joe’s donor saved many people with her gifts of life. A teenage boy who suffered from cystic fibrosis received her lungs. A grandmother who had been battling diabetes received one of her kidneys and her pancreas, and the donor’s other kidney went to a man who had been on dialysis for 15 years. A child who was suffering from short bowel syndrome received part of her intestine, and a young woman who was in liver failure received her liver.

Joe’s donor saved 6 lives because of her selfless decision to register as an organ donor when she renewed her license. Because of her generosity, Joe was able to return to work, play catch with his children, and enjoy holidays with his family.

Organ donors are heroes, and OPOs honor them and their families. They serve with compassionate care while inspiring their community members to donate life. Joe is alive today thanks to the many heroes who helped give him a second chance at life.

To learn more about the caring work of OPOs, go to www.aopo.org.

Register your decision to donate at RegisterMe.org.

Steve Miller, CEO, Association of Organ Procurement Organizations, [email protected]

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