Finger Lakes Donor Recovery Network coordinated more organ donations and life-saving transplants in 2018 than any other year in the organization’s 32-year history.
In total, the organization helped to facilitate the transplantation of 306 organs, a 35 percent increase from 2017, said Rob Kochik, executive director of Finger Lakes Donor Recovery Network. “These gifts of life have given 276 men, women and children a second chance. Some recipients received a simultaneous kidney and pancreas or double lung transplant.”
Finger Lakes Donor Recovery Network, part of the University of Rochester Medical Center, coordinates organ donations in New York state’s Finger Lakes, Central New York and Northern New York regions, working closely with 37 local hospitalsto ensure that the organ donor decisions of area residents, in consultation with their families, are carried out at the time of death.
Most of the recipients (202 of them) had been waiting for a kidney, liver, pancreas or heart transplant at UR Medicine’s Strong Memorial Hospital in Rochester, or a kidney or pancreas transplant at Upstate Medical University Hospital in Syracuse. Since 600 to 700 patients are typically on a waiting list between the two centers, this means that almost one-third of these patients were able to be taken off of the list because they had received the transplant they needed. Remaining recipients were patients at other transplant centers in the state and around the country.
Gift of Life
For Strong Memorial Hospital liver transplant recipient James Britt, the selfless gift made possible by his donor has allowed him simply to live again. The retired elementary school teacher needed a liver to save his life. “That generous gift has allowed me more time with my wife, and my children and grandchildren, and I thank my donor from the bottom of my heart,” Britt said. “Without all the donors and their families who made that same decision, nearly 300 people wouldn’t have gotten a second chance at life in 2018.”
When asked how transplant has impacted her life, Upstate Medical Center kidney recipient Janie Pritchett said "In so many ways! I had waited for a long time for this. I can see a better future for myself. I can have kids if I want to.”
Generosity of Donors
These transplants wouldn’t have been possible if not for the generosity of organ donors and donor families who chose to pass life on. Last year, 58 people from the Finger Lakes Donor Recovery Network service area gave the gift of life through organ donation.
The 58 donors in 2018 reflects the highest number of donors from the area in recent years. Finger Lakes Donor Recovery Network reports that one reason for the increase was the number of donors who had previously documented their wish to donate. Fifty-eight percent of the donors who were at least 16 years old had either joined an organ donor registry or provided their consent to donate on their Health Care Proxy. For those who had not indicated what their decision was with regards to donation, the decision was left up to the family.
“It’s unprecedented to have that many potential donors who already indicated what their wishes were regarding donation,” Kochik said. “They not only gave the gift of life, they also gave a gift to their families – relieving them of having to making this important decision on their behalf.”
New Online Registry
Another highlight of 2018 was an increase in the number of registered donors from the area. Currently, 46 percent of the population in the 20 counties served by Finger Lakes Donor Recovery Network are enrolled in the New York State Donate Life Registry. In 2014, it was a mere 28 percent. New York state’s overall enrollment rate is 35 percent and the national average of registered organ, eye and tissue donors is 58 percent.
A revamped Donate Life Registry system has assisted with increasing registry numbers in New York by removing barriers that once made it more difficult to sign up. Implemented in 2018, the new online portal allows for quick registration and eliminates the additional hard copy steps once required that were believed to hinder participation.
Finger Lakes Donor Recovery Network also credits the 37 area hospitals for their important role in the donation process and for promoting a positive culture about donation within their facilities, extending out to the communities they serve.
For more information or to join the registry, check www.donorrecovery.org.