Organ transplants almost back to pre-COVID levels, says Gift of Life Donor Program

MILFORD, Delaware (WPVI) -- There is good news for the 5,000 people awaiting life-saving organ transplants in our region. The Gift of Life says transplants are back on pace after taking a dive early in the pandemic.
"They stopped my fiance at the door, and said - you can't come in. Nobody's allowed in," recalls Rebecca Elkins of Milford, Delaware.

Just as COVID-19 cases started to spike here, Rebecca went into liver failure, and into a Delaware hospital - alone.

She was transferred to Einstein Medical Center to await a transplant, put on a separate floor, far from COVID-19 patients. Staff took extra steps to prevent infections and make her comfortable.

"They knew that going into a transplant by yourself was scary. I feel like they really showed me that they were there for me," said Rebecca.

Rick Hasz, Vice President for Clinical Services at the Gift of Life, says early on, the donor program revamped procedures to keep organ recipients and transplant coordinators safe.
The coordinators spend hours, even days, in the ICU with potential donors. They even go into the operating room.

Airline cutbacks this spring complicated logistics for donor kidneys, which often are transported by commercial flights. But the planning and extra effort worked.

"We were able to successfully get every organ to where it needed to go. It may have just taken a different route," said Hasz.

Now, in our region, more families are saying yes to donation.

Gift of Life says in June, there were 57 donors, resulting in 148 transplants. That's up from 47 donors last June.

Rebecca received her transplant in early April, and by May was back with her family.

She's heeding her doctor's advice, and honoring her donor's family.

"Because they gave you their child's, you know, organ, and it saved your life," she said.

She also wants to thank all the nurses, doctors, and staffers behind the masks who took such good care of her.

Living donor transplants are also almost back to pre-pandemic levels. Good news for the 5,000 people in our area waiting for this life-saving procedure.
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