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HEALTH CARE QUARTERLY 4-B Long Beach Business Journal
Living Donations Living donations have the most promise for reducing the kidney transplant wait list, Mone said. People have two kidneys yet only need one, so kidneys are the only whole-organ donation able to be given by live donors. For this reason, doctors and organ procurement organizations like OneLegacy encourage living donations. Donate Life America, a nonprofit alliance of national organizations aiming to encourage organ and tissue donations, recently started a website, www.livingdonationcalifornia.org, where people register to be living donors. “The website has a great deal of information on living donation and how it might work for you,” Mone said. “Living donations are becoming more and more common,” Mittal said, noting that in some of the country’s regions live donations make up 20 percent of kidney transplants. The surgery to remove kidneys is done through a minimally invasive technique that ensures a fairly speedy recovery time and minimal scarring. “In many centers we’re doing the surgery . . . through a keyhole incision and taking it out through a bikini incision very low on the abdomen so it doesn’t leave terrible scars,” he explained. Living donors earn the benefit of automatic placement at the top of the
August 19-September 1, 2014 organ donation waiting list should they ever need an organ themselves, he said. Mittal, who taught for several years at New York University before moving to California last month, said he taught a simple lesson to encourage his students to register as organ donors. “I asked how many people in the classroom would like to have an organ transplant if they needed it to save their lives, and pretty much everybody raised their hands. Then I asked everybody to raise their hands if they were registered donors, and usually just two or three hands went up,” he said. The exercise reflects the large disparity between the number of available organs and the number of people waiting for them, he said. Doctors and organ procurement organizations have encouraged living donations through kidney chains, which begin when an organ recipient has a willing donor who is not a compatible match. The organ procurement organization representing that patient’s region then looks for a similar situation where another patient has a donor who is not a match. The organization essentially swaps the respective donors to match up with the correct recipients. As many as 60 people may be involved in these organ donation swaps, Mone said. “The creation of these kidney chains has been the one most significant innovation that has gotten
more people transplants and is helping to reinvigorate living donation,” he said. The nonprofit Donate Life California, a division of Donate Life America, runs the state organ, eye and tissue donation registry and actively works with regional organ procurement organizations such as OneLegacy to increase organ donations. Donate Life started a program that enables people registering for driver’s licenses or state identification cards to register as organ donors at the same time. Their cards are then printed with a pink dot, identifying them as organ donors. Californians may also register as donors through www.donatelifecalifornia.org. Locally, Long Beach Memorial Medical Center, through its partnership with OneLegacy, was recently recognized for its organ donation efforts with a gold medal of honor from the U.S. Department of Health. Memorial was one of two hospitals in Los Angeles and Orange counties to receive the award, which is given to hospitals with organ donation rates that “greatly exceed national standards,” according to a statement from the hospital. “This recognition reflects the success of our OneLegacy partnership and the tremendous efforts of our hospital staff dedicated to saving and enhancing lives,” Diana Hendel, PharmD, CEO of Long Beach Memorial and its sister hospitals Community Hospital Long Beach and Miller Children’s
& Women’s Hospital, said in a statement. “At the end of the day our number one goal is to end deaths on the waiting list,” Mone said. “We’ll never end the waiting list; there will always be somebody who needs an organ. But if we could end deaths on the waiting list we would be very happy.”
Whole Body Donation Whole body donation for medical research is another option for those who want to improve others’ lives. Science Care, a national company with an office in Long Beach’s Douglas Park, specializes in whole body donation. “It is important to realize some people are not good candidates for organ donation or transplant. In that case, keep in mind that you can be a very good candidate for whole body donations for research. It is a different type of acceptance criteria,” Melinda Ellsworth, director of donor services at Science Care, told the Business Journal. “One of the main reasons people come to us is they are in the medical field themselves or they are suffering from an illness and they are interested in furthering medical research,” Ellsworth explained. Science Care partners with universities, medical research groups and even surgical implementation companies, where bodies are donated. If a donor wishes to contribute to a specific type of research, Science Care makes every effort to place the body in the proper hands, she said. Science Care’s donors have contributed to many medical causes and research studies. In one instance, surgeons used three bodies donated to Science Care to practice for a complicated procedure for a military veteran who needed half of her pelvis and an entire leg amputated. “The surgical team of three was able to practice for eight hours prior to surgery to ensure it was successful . . . It was very successful. [The veteran] is up and walking and is able to have children,” Ellsworth said. Some whole body donors may also be eligible for organ donation – it doesn’t necessarily have to be one or the other, Ellsworth said. But while the requirements for organ donation are fairly stringent, nearly everyone qualifies for whole body donation, she said. “The key rule-outs right now are contagious diseases at the time of passing such as Hepatitis B or C, HIV/AIDS, and maybe conditions like syphilis or active genital herpes. The other one would be extreme obesity, usually folks over 300 pounds,” she said of exclusionary factors for whole body donation. Science Care covers the cost of cremation, and remains are returned to families within three to five weeks, Ellsworth said. “If anyone is considering supporting medical research or even considering cremation, they should consider whole body donation with cremation. It is such an amazing way to give back.” ■
The Business Journal presents its Health Care Quarterly and a focus on women in business.