Why you should volunteer with an organ procurement organization
When Nancy Cash retired two years ago, it didn’t take long for her to decide how she wanted to spend her time in retirement. Cash worked as a nurse in cardiology at Barnes-Jewish Hospital for 34 years and was there when the heart transplant program started in the 1980s. After seeing patient after patient recover from successful heart transplants, she knew an organ procurement organization was the type of place she wanted to volunteer for.
“I worked very closely with the patients and got the opportunity to see them at their very sickest before their transplant and then afterward as they recovered,” she says. “When I got ready to retire, I thought I would like to be involved with Mid-America Transplant, so I began volunteering with them. Even though I'm not a recipient or donor family, I had direct contact with many heart recipients and was there with them from start to finish, so I feel a strong connection.”
What does an organ procurement organization (OPO) do?
An organ procurement organization (OPO) is a not-for-profit organization in the U.S. that recovers organs and tissue from deceased donors for transplantation. Mid-America Transplant, one of 57 OPO’s, offers much more than organ recovery:
- We provide grief support and genuine compassion to donor families who are coping with an unimaginable loss.
- We work to build awareness of organ and tissue donation. By spreading awareness of the importance of donation, we educate and encourage more people to sign up for the donor registry, which increases the chances that patients waiting will get the transplant they need.
- We collaborate and work with 120 hospitals and four transplant centers, as well as medical examiners and coroners throughout the region to ensure that every family that wants to donate their loved one’s organs and tissues has the opportunity to do so.
- We save more lives in our state-of-the-art facility. As the first organization of our kind to open an onsite organ and tissue recovery facility, we are able to provide even more high-quality organs, tissues, and corneas for transplant.
- We perform extensive tests in our onsite laboratory to screen donors for infectious disease and match donors with potential recipients.
- We perform compassionate recovery with respect and expertise. Working under the guidance of our chief medical officer, our critical care nurses and tissue specialists manage donor care to ensure that organ and tissue donations are healthy and safe.
- We are stewards of a lifesaving gift. We support donor families, transplant families, and our community. We commemorate the courage of donors and their families.
- We are funding breakthroughs in transplant science. The Clinical Innovation Fund supports research projects seeking to improve the outcomes of donation and transplantation in the next three to five years.
Why should you volunteer for an OPO?
The incredible generosity of donors touched the lives of thousands of recipients in need of organ and tissue transplants last year alone. When you become a volunteer with Mid-America Transplant, you can further that mission and assist with things like providing a testimonial, assembling donor family packets, blanket making, event preparation, distributing information, and educating the general public on organ donation, or even sharing your own story with local high school and college students.
For Cash, the opportunity to see patients in recovery made the decision to continue giving her time to organ donation an easy one. “It was just so wonderful to see because when they would come back after surgery, I would ask how they’re doing and they would respond, ‘I feel great!’ and I thought, what a blessing! These patients were just so grateful.”
Donation empowers transplant patients to take back life’s most important moments. Have you added your name to the donor registry? By registering as an organ, eye, and tissue donor, you can bring hope to patients and families who are holding out for a miracle and help bridge the gap between the demand for organ donations and the availability of viable, lifesaving organs from diverse donors. Don’t have the time to volunteer but still want to make an impact? Sign up for the donor registry and increase the chance that patients waiting will get the transplants they need to survive.