Organ Transplants

The waiting list of patients seeking an organ transplant has reached almost 125,000 people, but the amount of willing donors is far behind that number. Joining us to discuss the past, present and future of organ transplantation is Chief of the Surgery-Organ Transplantation Division at Northwestern Memorial Hospital, Dr. Michael Abecassis,  Dr. Peter Whitington, Director of the Siragusa Transplantation Center at Lurie Children’s Hospital, and Dr. Jose Oberholzer, Chief of the Transplant Division for University of Illinois at Chicago. 

There are currently 120,000 people on the organ transplant wait list, but thanks to a registered nurse, one transplant patient was removed from that list.

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After spending four years in the Navy, Doug Penrod decided to attend nursing school. And it was years later that the father of his best friend would become his patient. He was experiencing kidney failure, and Penrod, who is a RN and outreach coordinator for Northwestern Medicine’s Comprehensive Transplant Center, would be a donor. However, this was not the first time being a donor crossed Penrod’s mind.

“I had thought about it for some time,” he said. “When the time turned up, I thought why not.”

Unfortunately, during their last meeting before the surgery was to take place, something new was discovered in his patient and Penrod could no longer be a donor. Having already made up his mind to donate, he requested that another recipient be found.   

“Why not let someone else benefit,” Penrod said.

And that’s what happened less than seven months later.  In April 2008, Penrod participated in a four-way kidney donation, involving eight people.  He described the surgery as being a breeze and was up walking around the hospital within an hour. Six years later, he still keeps up with his recipient when she comes to the hospital where he works.

Penrod describes the donor process as having four phases.  He says there are key things a potential donor needs to keep in mind, such as if a person has someone in mind to donate to and how donating could affect family members. Another thing a potential donor should consider is whether he or she can take at least four weeks off of work because donors are restricted from lifting at least 10 pounds.

But Penrod goes on to say there is one question that is most important of all.

“Examine why you are really doing this,” he said. “Even if it’s for someone you know and love, make sure no thoughts of secondary gain cross your mind because you will be disappointed.”

View a graphic on organ transplants in the United States.



~Graphic by Taurean Small

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