DIXON, Ill. – Katherine Shaw Bethea Hospital was the site of an inspirational and life-saving organ donation procedure in January 2011. Physicians, nurses, and support staff participated in a series of operations that passed on the gift of life from a deceased patient to several recipients across the country. The story is as interesting as it is inspiring.
“Little did I know when I got a call about a patient who was not expected to survive that we’d begin a 48-hour process that would result in the successful organ donation to recipients in need of a life-saving transplant,” said Carol Gugerty, Chief Nursing Officer.
When it became clear that the patient’s condition was terminal, and that no procedures were available to save the patient’s life, physicians at KSB Hospital began to consider the possibility that the patient would be a candidate for organ donation. According to Donate Life America, candidates for organ donation typically die of irreparable neurological injuries. Since KSB Hospital is not a high-level trauma center or specialty hospital, organ donation procedures are rare. Kashif Sherwani, M.D., a hospital medicine specialist, was on duty and notified Carol Gugerty of the potential for organ donation. Gugerty called Donate Life America, a nationwide organ donation network, and began a strict and comprehensive process for identifying donation possibilities.
Gugerty completed the process that concluded the patient was an ideal candidate for organ donation. A check showed that the patient had previously enrolled in the organ donor registry and that organ donation was part of the patient’s and family’s wishes. A specialist from Donate Life America was dispatched to KSB Hospital and worked with local and visiting physicians to check the condition of the organs to be donated and ensure that proper procedures were followed. A series of tests were performed to determine that all brain and brain stem function has stopped. Since it had, the patient was declared dead and medical professionals artificially maintained blood flow and body temperature. Transplant teams from outside hospitals arrived at KSB Hospital to procure vital organs they’d later transplant to patients at the team’s home hospital.
While KSB Hospital personnel worked with the Donate Life America specialist, the organ donation network began to line up potential recipients and find a transplant team ready to perform the time-sensitive procedures as soon as possible. Transportation options were considered and included flights into and out of Dixon’s Walgreen Field, a police escort to the Rockford airport, and Donate Life America couriers to drive to metropolitan Chicago hospitals.
Most notably, the patient was a strong candidate to donate the heart—a particularly vital and sensitive procedure. Heart transplants require that both procurement and transplant procedures occur within five hours of each other. The heart was found to be in good condition by two cardiac ultrasounds, and was successfully transported to a recipient in a Chicago hospital. The lungs, kidneys, liver, and other tissues were successfully procured and transported to recipient hospitals in six different sites across multiple states.
Gugerty praised KSB Hospital physicians, nurses, and support staff who were called in after-hours to perform unique procedures to assist in the procurement of vital organs. “They all said, ‘Yes, of course. I’d consider it a privilege.’ People came together to ensure that every detail was covered and every procedure followed,” said Gugerty, “We had a team of people ready and willing to help, both in medical procedures and in logistical details. It was an honor to be a part of such a meaningful operation.”
“We’re proud to have played a role in sharing the gift of life,” said Dave Schreiner, Chief Operating Officer, “A special thank you goes to our physicians and nurses who used their training and expertise in a new way. They all played an important role in making a recipient’s dream come true.”
Special attention has been given to patient privacy in this press release. Some details have been purposefully obscured in order to protect patient confidentiality. Respect for patient and family privacy is a top priority of KSB Hospital.
KSB Hospital is an 80-bed acute care facility offering a variety of ancillary services. From obstetrics to orthopedics, from home health care to the cardiac services laboratory, KSB offers programs that reflect our desire to meet the growing, changing needs of those we serve and to remain focused on the picture of health.