Strange Boat - Organ Donation Awareness


Organ donation procedure

In safe hands

Read here about the organ donation procedure, coordinated in Ireland by the Organ Procurement Office at Beaumont Hospital, Dublin.

Brain stem death

Organ donation can be considered when a patient on a life support machine is diagnosed brain stem dead. This could be as a result of a massive brain haemorrhage or some form of head trauma. Brain stem death is the permanent loss of function of the brain stem and this is ascertained through tests carried out by two senior doctors to determine absence of brain function. When these tests show that there is no brain function and no chance of recovery, the patient is declared dead.

At this stage the family may wish to discuss the option of organ donation or may be approached by the medical or nursing staff in the Intensive Care Unit to discuss the possibility of organ donation. The ventilator or life support machine will keep the blood circulating after death, which means the organs can be maintained for transplantation. The medical staff provide information and support to the family in making their decision.

Organ Procurement Office

Once the decision has been made, the Organ Procurement Office at Beaumont Hospital in Dublin is contacted and we as donor coordinators organize the entire donation procedure. Since 1986 all organ donations in Ireland are coordinated through the Irish Organ Procurement Service based at Beaumont. From here a twenty-four hour service is provided to the 40 donating hospitals around the country and the three transplant centres at Beaumont Hospital, Vincent’s Hospital and the Mater Hospital. We contact these transplant centres to find suitably matched recipients and arrange a time for the donation to take place.

The coordinator then travels with the transplant teams to the donating hospital and meets the donor family. We explain what is involved in the donation and a little about the patients who would benefit from the donation, and any questions the family may have are answered by us. Having spoken with the coordinator if the family then wish to proceed with organ donation, and there are no contraindications to donation, the family will then be asked for consent for transplantation of the organs they wish to donate. Only organs which are specifically consented for are taken for transplantation and only if a suitable recipient has been identified.

Transplant teams - caring for a vulnerable community

The donor operation takes place in the operating theatre by the transplant teams in the hospital where the donor has died, under the same surgical conditions as any other operation. There are individual transplant teams for each of the organs that are being donated, and the surgery is performed by specialist transplant teams from the individual transplant centres: the Mater Hospital for heart & lung, St Vincent’s Hospital for liver and Beaumont Hospital for kidney and pancreas. Each team consists of two surgeons and a nurse. The donor coordinator is present in theatre during the surgery to support both the donor and transplant personnel during the procedure, and cares for the donor after the procedure. It is the highest priority of our teams to maintain dignity and respect for the deceased person at all times.

Recipient operation

Following donation, each individual team takes responsibility to transport the organ back with them to the transplant centre where the recipient operation will take place. The transplants are carried out without delay as soon as the recipients are prepared for the operation. The same surgical teams are involved in the transplant and the follow up care of the patient.

The Gift of Life

A week or two following the transplantation, the donor coordinators will write to the donor family with news of each recipient who has benefited from the donation. At any stage following donation, a donor family may contact the transplant coordinator to enquire about the well being of the recipients.

The gift of life is the greatest gift to receive. Each year in Ireland approximately 300 transplants take place, each offering new life to so many. This new life is given through the thoughtfulness and unselfishness of so many donor families who make that very brave decision to donate their loved ones’ organs for transplantation. Transplant recipients are forever grateful and remember their donor and donor family every day of their new lives.

Written by: Phyllis Cunningham, Former Senior Transplant Coordinator, Beaumont Hospital

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