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The pandemic causes changes to the organ transplant process with thousands waiting and the state agency rapidly adjusting

Local

COVINGTON, La. (KTAL/KMSS) – COVID-19 caused organ transplant surgery to come to a halt across the country with over 100-thousand on the national waiting list already.

Now that hospitals are performing some surgeries again the ability to donate life is revived. 

The Louisiana Organ Procurement Agency said they were preparing for the pandemic well before the first patient in the state was announced because of their role in the health care system. 

Recipients are already immunocompromised to be able to receive the new organ. Now the organ must be tested for the coronavirus.

“That first two to three week span, transplant recipients were some of those impacted because you only have so many ventilators to go around. We didn’t want to be a burden on the already over-burden health care system,” said Joey Boudreaux, Louisiana Organ Procurement Agency CCO.

LOPA was able to secure fast COVID-19 testing that fits the time frame of an organ transplant process between 12 to 18 hours. To also alleviate the critical care units LOPA is transporting donors to their Donor Care Center in Covington, Louisiana where they can perform the proper diagnostics to determine if the organ is safe. 

“While maintaining the highest level and sensitivity to the donors themselves. At the same time being able to maximize those donors’ gifts and transplants as organs as possible and save as many lives as possible,” Boudreaux said.

LOPA provides both a medical role by finding the right organ and getting it to the right recipient. With also a supportive one to grieving families of the donors. The organization started virtual events to connect people across the country. Including a National Day of Remembrance on Facebook Live.

“It was a challenge from the first stages. Especially with being able to support the families in the manner of the level we like to support when their visitation rights were limited,” Boudreaux said.

Since the organ must come from donors who died what’s called a “brain death” only 2 percent of the population will ever qualify to donate their organs when they die.

“We have well over 100-thousand people who are waiting right now in the United States for a life-saving organ. That opportunity to become a donor is so unique that’s where the oneness is us to make sure even in times of disaster, in times of hurricanes or times like we’re in now with a pandemic that we have to do our very best that none of the organ donor’s opportunities go to waste,” Boudreaux said.

The most unique transfer of life to save another.

LOPA is also using secured video observation for transplant doctors to minimize contact and travel.

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