Hometown Hero: Physician assistant saves lives recovering organs for transplants

PHILADELPHIA (WPVI) -- Our Hometown Hero this week is a woman who will stop at nothing to see that her job is done, that's because someone's life depends on it.

The moment the phone rings, the countdown clock is on.

"It does happen anytime, anywhere," said Georgeine Smith, who, at a minimum, could have only eight hours to save a life.

"People die every day waiting for a liver transplant. People are on dialysis for years waiting for a kidney transplant," said Smith, who is the lead surgical physician assistant with Penn Transplant Institute.

Her job is to recover the organs of deceased donors and bring them back to patients at the institute, which is doing about 500 transplants a year.

"We never stopped working with COVID because there are donors available and recipients available, so we didn't stop at all," she said.

She will work all night flying out to get the organ and then she will work most of the next day supporting the surgery to actually implant the organ into the recipient," said Austin Williams, the chief administrative officer for Penn Transplant Institute.

Smith can get called at a moment's notice to fly anywhere in the county to retrieve an organ that will save someone's life, but she says she's not the hero.

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"No, no, the heroes are the donors," she said.

Smith says her heroes are recognized in the few moments before the first incision is made, and the only sound is a beeping monitor and a poem honoring the gift of life.

"Today we come together to care for our patient, may we remember the new hopes and dreams that begin with the gift of this one person," she read.

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