On average, it takes over 250 people to make one organ transplant happen. From the donor family who says yes when asked about donation and the nurse at the bedside, to the lab technician running tests and the person filling the jet with fuel so it can transport an organ to the waiting patient – each person has a vital role in saving a life. The donation process itself may take between 12 to 24 hours or more, due to the matching process and the delicate surgery involved.
LifeCenter Northwest works with United Network for Organ Sharing (UNOS) to find suitable recipients based on many factors. UNOS manages a computerized network for impartially matching organ donors with potential transplant recipients. At the time of donation, potential transplant recipients are matched in priority based upon criteria such as severity of illness, length of time on the waiting list, blood type, and size of the organ. Genetic tissue matching is a key factor for kidney and pancreas transplants, where a match is critical in minimizing the risk of organ rejection. Transplant waiting times can vary from a few months to years.
There is no discrimination because of age, sex, race, or financial status when determining who receives an organ—and human organs cannot be bought or sold in the U.S., according to the Uniform Anatomical Gift Act of 1984. Violators are subject to fines and imprisonment.
Organs must be transplanted within 4 to 48 hours, depending on the organ, and LifeCenter Northwest works to find matching recipients as quickly as possible, in order to save more lives.
The surgical recovery of organs takes place in the hospital operating room, and donors are treated with dignity and respect throughout the donation process. After recovery of the organs in the operating room, the donor’s body is taken to a funeral home of the family’s choice (or first to the coroner or medical examiner if an autopsy is required).
The donation of organs and tissues allows for the observation of end-of-life rituals and funeral arrangements, including the option of an open casket funeral. Funeral expenses (and hospital costs prior to the determination of brain death) are the responsibility of the donor’s family, but LifeCenter Northwest pays for all donation-related expenses.
Soon after donation, the donor’s family will receive a letter from LifeCenter Northwest with general information about the organ recipients.