Organ transplants reach a record high in 2020

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Many healthcare appointments were canceled last year due to the pandemic, including doctor visits and medical procedures. But for organ transplants, 2020 was a record-breaking year.

Also, last year, a new app was launched to help organ recipients track their health

SPRINGFIELD, Mo.: James Gleason received a heart transplant in 1994. And 26 years later, he’s making sure he doesn’t just count the years but makes the years count to honor his life and that of Roberto, the man whose heart he received. 

“You normally don’t find out who your donor is, but sometimes you do, and I’ve been very fortunate to be able to connect with his family to be able to say thank you,” Gleason said. 

To express that thank you in actions, Gleason joined T.R.I.O., Transplant Recipient International Organization. Today he is the president, and recently, he was part of the original design team for a new app called AlloCare

The app designed to help recipients monitor their well-being, schedule medications, and has a scoring system to keep users accountable. Organ recipients need a little extra attention as they’re at high risk after a transplant. 

“I think the app is a great idea; it engages the patients, it empowers them to participate in their healthcare, it prevents complications,” said Mary Hines.

 Hines hasn’t used the app herself but has worked closely with donor families and recipients for years – first as a nurse and now as the hospital service specialist for Mid-America Transplant

“I’m a hospital liaison basically,” she said. “I make sure everybody understands donation and what we can do to make the process better for the hospital as well as for the families.”

 Many healthcare appointments were canceled last year due to the pandemic, including doctor visits and medical procedures. But for organ transplants, 2020 was a record-breaking year.

Hines says in 2020, Mid-America Transplant ended the year with a five percent increase in referrals of possible donors. 

“It was a record-breaking year for organ and tissue donation,” Hines said.  

The organization serves 122 hospitals in Southern Missouri, Southern Illinois, and Northeast Arkansas. According to its website, in its region last year, 278 organ donors impacted 815 lives.

“Families are so generous,” Hines said. 

Hines says Mid-America Transplant has more people on its donor registry now than ever before.

Today, 108,895 people are on the waiting list for organ donation nationwide. Of those, about 40,000 will get a transplant in any given year. But still, about 20 people will die each day waiting for a donation. 

Hines says only one percent of people die in a manner that makes them eligible for organ donation. But one organ donor can save up to eight people. 

“So, my final message would be: consider organ donation,” Gleason said. “Register your decision. Be a hero and save a life when your life is over.”

AlloCare launched in July of 2020. It’s free and is now available for Apple phones, and will be available for Android in the Spring. 

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