Transplant News Sharing // News from Source www.courier-journal.com
When COVID-19 struck earlier this year, medical staff at University of Louisville Health’s organ transplant center had to make a quick decision.
Do they temporarily shut down like some transplant centers? Or do they keep going?
Physicians at U of L’s Trager Transplant Center elected to continue services, and so far, the results have paid off — with patients’ lives saved and no adverse outcomes from the coronavirus.
“We persevered and said, ‘OK, we’re going to continue transplanting,'” said Dr. Christopher Jones, medical director of the transplant program. “We just kind of kept going.”
Jones and Kim Rallis, the program’s executive director, met with reporters last week to talk about the busy year they’ve had so far and how they are managing under COVID-19 constraints, a particular risk for transplant patients who take immune-suppressing drugs to avoid organ rejection.
At U of L, doctors perform heart, liver, lung, kidney, pancreas and hand transplants. With more than 1,000 Kentuckians on the waiting list for various transplants, staff decided not to suspend procedures that in most cases are life-saving.
As of last week, U of L had provided 101 transplants this year.
“It’s wonderful any time we can give the gift of life to people,” Jones said. “That’s the business we’re here for.”
It is the only adult transplant program in the region. The state’s other program is at the University of Kentucky, which also continued organ transplants without interruption, a spokeswoman said.
UK reports it has performed 189 transplants so far this year.
U of L’s program had two major concerns: The welfare of patients who already had received organ transplants and safely managing transplant surgeries.
Almost overnight, medical staff switched to telehealth visits for routine visits with patients who are at higher risk for infection because of their suppressed immune systems. Patients awaiting transplants were evaluated case by case as organs became available.
So far, the center has performed transplant surgeries successfully, culminating in a whirlwind 24 hours earlier this month when the center performed six transplants: Two livers, three kidneys and one lung.
Jones performed all but the lung transplant, a pace he acknowledged was “ridiculous.”
But when organs become available and “pan out” for waiting patients, the center has to act fast, Jones said.
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“This time they all panned out for our patients, and it was wonderful,” Jones said, adding that U of L “took six people off the waiting list” that day.
“We’re going to work every day to make sure we get that waiting list down to zero,” Jones said. “That’s my goal. That’s always been my goal.”
So far, the center is ahead of the number of transplants it performed by the same time last year. Staff attribute that in part to the fact more organs became available after some other centers around the country temporarily suspended transplant services amid the pandemic.
Jones said the program’s staff also are carefully monitoring patients who have received organ transplants and may become infected with COVID-19. While several of their patients have contracted the virus none are recent transplants, and so far, have weathered the virus and recovered, he said.
While some patients have deferred medical procedures during the pandemic, that’s not an option for most of those awaiting organ transplants, Rallis said.
“The care we provide is life-saving,” Rallis said. “These are patients with advanced organ disease. They’re facing death if they don’t receive our services.”
Jones said he advises people not to skip any necessary medical care because of the pandemic.
“If you need to go to the doctor, go to the doctor,” he said. “Be seen so that you can be taken care of.”
Jones said medical staff are continuing to learn about COVID-19 and how to treat patients during the pandemic, commenting:
“I think COVID’s here for the long run.”
Meanwhile, Kentucky is always in need of organ donors, according to Shelley Snyder, with Kentucky Organ Donor Affiliates. To register people may:
- Agree to be an organ donor when obtaining or renewing a driver’s license. The license will be marked on the front with a tiny heart-shaped symbol and the words “organ donor.”
- Register online through the national Donate Life Registry at registerme.org.
- Use the heart-shaped health app on an iPhone to sign up as an organ donor.
Transplant News Sharing // “Lung Transplants” – Google News from Source www.courier-journal.com